There is one thing Boston Red Sox fans can infer from the trade of left-handed reliever Franklin Morales: Andrew Miller is getting healthier. Morales did a serviceable job for the Red Sox in their World Series-winning season of 2013. Morales’s numbers may not look all that fantastic (2-2, 4.62 ERA, 1.54 WHIP), but he did give the Red Sox some much-needed innings at mid-season and down the stretch, allowing the more-taunted relievers to get some rest when it counted most. He also had a 1.86 ERA in September.
The Red Sox needed that September performance because they lost one of the best left-handed specialists in the league when Miller strained a ligament in his left foot on July 6, ending his season. Miller was 1-2, 2.64 ERA, 1.370 WHIP in 30 innings in 37 appearances. He never made it back and even sat out the postseason.
Miller is one of four Red Sox players to have undergone surgery or at least rehab programs this offseason, but just as the other three (Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, and Shane Victorino) he is progressing very well and expects to report to Spring Training on time and ready for the new season. In fact, in my update of the others, I cited manager John Farrell as saying that he is excited to have Miller back in his bullpen.
The trade tells me that Miller is ready — or will be by mid-February. With Miller back , Boston had an abundance of lefties in Miller, Morales, Craig Breslow, and Drake Britton, and they were still in need of infielders, particularly a shortstop. There is still a chance at signing Stephen Drew, but Cherington did right in not waiting too long for him.
The Red Sox got back a quality back-up infielder in Jonathan Herrera. He can play both middle-infield positions as well as third base, giving Farrell some flexibility. Xander Bogaerts can play third or shortstop. Under the current roster, Bogaerts will most likely move back to short while Will Middlebrooks stays at third. Herrera can then serve as a late-inning defensive replacement at three infield positions (do not expect Pedroia to sit out much, though), pinch hit, pinch run, or spot start. He hit .292 and stole three bases in limited action for Colorado in 2013. Managers like having that type of player, and Farrell will appreciate what Herrera offers.
Although there is no official word yet on Miller’s availability, it appears a lot more likely that he will be ready for Spring Training. The trade may not have occurred if Miller was not ready.