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Three Years Later, Ender Inciarte Is The Prize Of The Miller-Swanson Trade

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(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

ATLANTA—When the Diamondbacks and Braves hooked up for their industry-shocking trade in December 2015, the deal was colloquially referred to as Dansby Swanson for Shelby Miller.

It was understandable at the time. Swanson was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft that year. Miller was a standout 24-year-old starter coming off his first all-star appearance.

But as the trade stands three seasons later, neither of them have been the biggest impact players from the deal. That title, indisputably, belongs to Ender Inciarte.

On Saturday night, Inciarte had three hits and scored the go-ahead run with a head-first slide to beat the throw home on a squeeze play, helping the Braves pick up an 8-1 win over the Marlins.

After winning two straight gold gloves in center field, his first all-star selection last year and a major league-leading 18 stolen bases this year, Inciarte’s impact has become plain for all to see.

“It’s really become what we expect out of him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s just a solid player, can really hit. It’s just kind of one of things, it’s become commonplace with him.”

The trade, in full, was Swanson, Inciarte and righthander Aaron Blair from the D-backs to the Braves in exchange for Miller and lefthanded relief prospect Gabe Speier.

Inciarte was by no means a throw-in to the deal. He finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2014, and in 2015 he hit .303 and stole 21 bases while playing all three outfield spots for the D-backs.

But he was overshadowed by the others in the trade. Swanson and Blair immediately became the Braves Nos. 1 and 4 prospects, while Miller was expected to form an elite 1-2 punch for Arizona alongside newly-signed Zack Greinke.

It didn’t happen that way. Blair posted a 7.89 ERA in 16 major league starts and is currently in Triple-A. Miller went 5-14, 5.78 in 24 starts for the D-backs before needing Tommy John surgery. Swanson is the only other player from the trade actually active in the majors right now, and he’s delivered a .252/.324/.360 slash line in an up-and-down start to his big league career. Speier is pitching well with a 2.05 ERA out of the bullpen—at Double-A Jackson.

It’s been Inciarte, and Inciarte alone, racking up the hardware and accolades, and ultimately playing a decisive role in his franchise’s fortunes.

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Plays like his burst home on the squeeze Saturday only keep reinforcing that.

“It was just really good on his part because it was half a bobble away from that really being a close play at the plate,” Snitker said. “He was getting it, cutting the bags good ... all those little things, let alone stealing the bases, can go a long way into helping a team win.”

There is still time for the other principles of the deal to deliver on their promise. Swanson is 24 and has less than a season and a half’s worth of big league games under his belt. In fact, it was Swanson who laid down the squeeze bunt that scored Inciarte for the go-ahead run in the fifth.

Miller is due back from surgery this summer and is still just 27. Blair had season-ending shoulder surgery in April but will still be only 26 when he returns. Speier is 23 and doing just fine in the upper minors.

But as things stand right now, calling it the Swanson-Miller deal is a misnomer.

For all intents and purposes, it’s the Ender Inciarte deal.

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