On August 31st, the last day that teams can trade players using the waiver wire, the Seattle Mariners trotted out Kevin Millwood to start the game. There was some reported interest in Millwood this before the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July, but Jack Z and company said that they were not happy with the packages they would have gotten for Millwood, and the Mariners kept Millwood. According to Fox Sports, Millwood got through revocable waivers without being claimed at the end of August. This means that he could be traded to any team before the end of August 31st. As Millwood took the mound on Friday, it was pretty apparent that the Mariners were going to keep Millwood. On Friday, Millwood pitched terribly against the Angels. He struck out just 1 batter in 5 innings, walking 4. That is good for a 7.70 FIP and 7.15 SIERA, his 2nd worst start of the season.
The Mariners are not in a pennant race, and are stuck with Millwood, a pitcher who will turn 38 years old ad will be a free agent this off-season. Even worse, Erasmo Ramirez (promoted on Saturday) is stuck in the bullpen. Erasmo’s future is most likely as a decent-adequate starter with a good fastball, gets ground-balls, and throws strikes. He started the year with the big league club, threw well as a reliever, and was later used as an adequate starter. After an elbow injury, he pitched in Tacoma. He has more a future in the Mariners’ organization than Millwood does. Yet, at least for now, he will be in the bullpen while Millwood starts increasingly meaningless games for the Mariners.
It is not as if Millwood has been bad this year. Far from it, he has a 98 FIP -, meaning he has been slightly better than a league average starter, even when you minimize the Safeco factor. He has gotten more ground-balls than he has in several years, and has actually seen a velocity uptick this year, extremely rare for a pitcher his age. The problem is that he seems to be fading. His 2nd worst start of the season was on Friday, and his worst start was 2 starts before that (according to SIERA). According to Brooks Baseball, here is Millwood’s fastball velocity (they list it as a sinker) by month this year:
As you can see, Millwood is throwing softer right now than he has at all season. This has profound implications. If you aren’t going to trade Millwood when you are having a mediocre season with no real chance at the play-offs, it is because you think he has value and plan on bringing him back. 2 weeks ago, if you insisted that Millwood would not be traded, I would say go ahead and offer him a contract (1 year, 2 million dollars would be a bargain considering how well he had been throwing. 3-4 million wouldn’t have been unreasonable). Now that he has faded, I don’t know if you should bring him back. It seems that the Mariners missed the chance to maximize value when they decided to not trade him before August 1st. They would not have gotten a top prospect for him, but he was a league average starter making virtually no money. The Mariners could have gotten something. Now he has regressed and they were stuck with his regression. The velocity and effectiveness dip could be (and most likely is) just an August swoon. An old pitcher had the innings catch up on him a little bit and had a dead arm period for part of the season. This wouldn’t be the first time this happened. If this is what happened, then the Mariners should bring him back on a reasonable 1 year deal to help the back of the rotation next year. If it is something more serious, than the Mariners really missed an opportunity here. Millwood will get some starts in September, and those starts will be very interesting in evaluation.