This Phillies trade package could land this flame-throwing A’s closer

The question is, is the steep price worth it?
Oakland Athletics closer Mason Miller
Oakland Athletics closer Mason Miller / G Fiume/GettyImages

We're still months away from the July 30 MLB trade deadline. It's not quite trade season yet, although it might feel like it after the Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres swung their Luis Arraez deal.

A recent report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal indicates that teams are already calling the Oakland Athletics about their flame-throwing phenom closer Mason Miller (subscription required). The problem inquiring teams are facing is that Oakland's asking price is steep — very steep.

As a bona fide World Series contender, the Philadelphia Phillies are surely looking for ways to bolster a roster that has taken the league by storm. It wouldn't be surprising to hear that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and general manager Sam Fuld are looking in Miller's direction as a possible bullpen addition for this season and seasons to come.

It was well-documented that the Phillies didn't make any changes to their relief corps over the winter. It didn't even seem like they tried that hard to land a free agent bullpen arm. As The Philadelphia Inquirer's Scott Lauber reported during spring training, managing partner John Middleton said they're saving the powder for the summer (subscription required).

This Phillies trade package could land this flame-throwing A’s closer

Rosenthal suggests a couple of hypothetical trades for Miller that involve the Padres and Orioles giving up some highly valued prospects. Who would the Phillies need to part with to make a deal with the A's work?

The Phillies would have to give up some big prospects to acquire Miller. Using Baseball Trade Values' trade simulator, here's a Phillies package that could be enticing for Oakland. The deal would send Phillies No. 3 prospect pitcher Mick Abel, No. 4 prospect outfielder Justin Crawford and No. 5 prospect shortstop Starlyn Caba.

Yikes! If that seems like a lot, that's because it is. As Rosenthal says, the price for Miller is steep, but according to Baseball Trade Values, this is a fair deal based on their formula.

Phillies-As Miller trade proposal

What makes Mason Miller so valuable?

What makes Miller so appealing? If you haven't heard about the 25-year-old yet, you've missed out on quite the spectacle. Miller routinely pops his fastball at over 100 mph. His average fast velocity is 100.9 mph — that's his average, not his max.

Miller's appearances are something to behold. His Statcast sliders are like nothing you've seen before. He has even broken the advanced Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) metric, registering a -0.22 FIP. His xERA is 0.75; his xFIP is 0.62. It just goes on and on with his eye-popping numbers.

The big right-hander is a perfect 8-for-8 in save opportunities with a 0.98 ERA, a 0.65 WHIP and 38 strikeouts and five walks in 18 1/3 innings.

As detailed by The Athletic's Matt Gelb last fall, we know that Dombrowski loves velocity in his bullpen (subscription required). They already have José Alvarado and Seranthony Domínguez with their 98 mph sinkers, Orion Kerkering and Gregory Soto with their 98 mph four-seamers, and Jeff Hoffman and Yunior Marte and their 96 mph four-seamers.

Miller blows them all out of the water with his velocity. He isn't a one-trick pony either. He has just as good a whiff rate with his 87.5 mph slider (47.9 percent) as he does on his fastball (47.8 percent).

Earning $740,000 this season, Miller isn't arbitration-eligible until 2026 and is under club control through 2029. You can see why the A's are asking for so much.

Why would the Phillies make this trade for Mason Miller?

Giving up on Abel might seem tough. He's so close to the big leagues, but he continues to struggle with command. After posting a 5.20 BB/9 between Double- and Triple-A in 2023, he has a 5.60 BB/9 in 27 1/3 innings for Lehigh Valley this season. It's hard to make a major league starter with such high walk rates. With lower strikeout and higher fly ball rates, Abel has had a tough go in Triple-A, posting a 5.60 ERA and a 5.69 FIP.

Plus, the Phillies are waiting on No. 1 prospect Andrew Painter, who looks destined to slide into the rotation at some point in 2025.

As for Crawford, his elite speed is tantalizing, but the Phillies have already found some cheap, young speed with defense and some offense between Johan Rojas and Brandon Marsh. Rojas won't be arbitration-eligible until 2027 and is under club control until 2030, while Marsh won't become a free agent until 2028.

Caba is so young, still just 18, that there's no telling how he might turn out. Despite being highly-touted with his glove and bat-to-ball skills, this might be as high as he gets. There's simply no telling with young prospects, as much as the Phillies like him.

Why the Phillies shouldn't make this trade for Mason Miller

Now, this doesn't mean the Phillies should or would make this deal or that they'd even consider this package as an option. This may not even be enough to satisfy Oakland's steep asking price.

Miller is undoubtedly a unicorn and an immense talent — just see all the reasons above — but like every other high-velocity pitcher, there's an element of risk. It might even be higher with the A's closer.

He had only thrown 39 1/3 innings in the minors from 2021 through 2023 before his call-up last season. Originally a starter, he battled injuries in the minors and then missed almost four months last season with a UCL sprain in his throwing elbow.

He came back healthy and is strictly used out of the bullpen now. So far, he has stayed healthy. If the A's decide to part with their best player, it will take a lot. The asking price is high, maybe too high and with too much risk for Dombrowski and Fuld's liking.

Only time will tell if Miller ends up being the final piece in an already loaded bullpen for the run to the World Series. Don't hold your breath, though.