BOSTON -- The Red Sox are taking on a salvage operation, one that has a potentially high return. On Friday, Boston traded left-handed reliever Dustin Richardson, who flopped in his audition with the team this past season, to the Florida Marlins for another left-hander, Andrew Miller.
Miller will need no introduction to new Red Sox teammate Daniel Bard. In 2006, they teamed to lead the University of North Carolina to the College World Series, and both were drafted in the first round that June.
Miller, the national collegiate pitcher of the year, was drafted sixth overall by the Detroit Tigers, one pick ahead of young Los Angeles Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw and four picks ahead of Tim Lincecum, the San Francisco Giants' ace. A 6-foot-7, 210-pound left-hander who was the Tar Heels' all-time strikeout leader, Miller signed a four-year, $5.4 million deal and was promoted to the big leagues a little more than three weeks later. Bard came to the Red Sox on the 28th pick.
But while Bard overcame a rough start in pro ball to emerge as one of the top setup men in the game, Miller has fallen far short of the success predicted for him. The Marlins thought highly enough of him to demand he be included in the deal that sent slugger Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers in December 2007, but Miller became a major disappointment, going 10-20 with a 5.89 ERA with Florida.
Miller is out of options, meaning the Marlins could not send him back to the minors without having him clear waivers first. Florida general manager Larry Beinfest instead opted to get something back for him and dealt him to the Red Sox for Richardson, another big (6-foot-6) lefty who had a 4.15 ERA in 26 appearances but had trouble getting out lefties (.360 batting average against).
MIller was paid $1.79 million last season but falls short of salary arbitration by 36 days. Richardson, who was paid a pro-rated share of the big league minimum ($400,000) last season, is not arbitration-eligible.
At his best, the 25-year-old Miller throws four pitches, including a four-seam fastball that has touched 99 mph, a slider, a 12-to-6 curve and a changeup. He also has been working on a cutter. But his biggest issue has been a failure to repeat his delivery because of a tendency to throw across his body.
But he is still young enough that if new pitching coach Curt Young can unlock his delivery and restore his confidence, Miller could help the Red Sox as a power lefty in the bullpen, or even make a bid for a starting spot in a rotation that at the moment has no openings.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.