Blue Jays: Ken Giles, as of now, is the team’s biggest trade deadline chip
The Toronto Blue Jays potentially will have a really big trade chip in closer en Giles should the right-hander start the 2019 season strong.
The Toronto Blue Jays biggest trade chip last season was their closer, Roberto Osuna, at least prior to his domestic violence arrest and suspension. Josh Donaldson was considered the biggest trade chip the team had heading into the regular season on an expiring deal, but there’s a stronger case to be made that regardless of if Donaldson had stayed healthy or not, Osuna could’ve netted more prior to the suspension railroading his value. The Blue Jays got closer Ken Giles as part of the deal from Houston for Osuna, and heading into 2019, Ken Giles, as of now, is the team’s biggest trade deadline chip.
On the Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet Fan 590, notable writer Ben Nicholson-Smith joined Blair to talk about WinterFest, and some of their takeaways from the event after it’s second year. The conversation did turn to Ken Giles and how hard he’s been working this off-season to get off to a good start from both a performance, and mental standpoint. Blue Jays fans and baseball fans as a whole will remember Giles had a few instances where he lost his cool. Once was on Manager A.J. Hinch, and another when he punched himself after being taken out of a game.
Blair and Nicholson-Smith continued discussing Giles and noted how much trade interest there was in him at the Winter Meetings in December. Numerous teams checked in with the Blue Jays on the flamethrower after they took notice of his performance once he got to Toronto. Despite a 4.99 ERA in Houston, Giles did post a FIP of 2.28. In Toronto, his ERA dropped to 4.12 but FIP rose to 4.33. The home run ball hurt Giles in Toronto at a 21.1% HR/FB, but an encouraging sign was his xFIP at 3.28, which is right in line with the 3.26 xFIP posted with the Astros.
It’s really no surprise that there was a good amount of interest in Giles. With the Blue Jays, he averages 97.4 MPH on his fastball and 86.7 MPH on his slider. He has wipeout material, and the stuff to be one of the best closers in baseball. Giles’ fastball got hit around quite a bit in 2018, but his slider has consistently remained un-hittable. The whiff percentage on his fastball is a great 51.2%.
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The 28 year old has also posted elite seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies in the past. His first season where he was firmly established in the big leagues was in 2015, and Giles posted a 2.0 fWAR, 1.80 ERA, and 2.13 FIP. He also nearly matched his 2.0 fWAR in 2017 with the Astros when he had a 1.8 fWAR, 2.30 ERA, and 2.38 FIP. When Giles is on, he can be dominant.
The first time he was traded was in the 2015 off-season, and he had five years of control remaining. The Phillies received Vince Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Thomas Eshelman, Mark Appel, and Harold Arauz. At the time, this trade was quite the haul for the re-building Phillies.
There have been other trades of high quality closers who have netted a team a farm system re-stock. Craig Kimbrel going from the San Diego Padres to Boston Red Sox for Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, and Carlos Asuaje. Aroldis Chapman netted the New York Yankees Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Adam Warren, and Rashad Crawford in 2016. High profile relievers in general, even if they’re not closers can return a haul for a team moving the reliever.
While the compensation for Osuna could’ve been much higher without a suspension, it was still a good return overall. It’s entirely possible the Blue Jays wouldn’t have traded Osuna at all, but he was their top trade chip if they decided to move him without the legal, and arguably moral issues attached to having him around.
The point of all of these reliever trade examples is that the Blue Jays were able to turn a reliever trade chip into another potential reliever trade piece. If Ken Giles can start the 2019 season strong for the Blue Jays, they will be able to flip him for a return that could be better than the Osuna trade that got Giles in the first place. It should be exciting for Blue Jays fans that Jeff Blair and Ben Nicholson-Smith unearthed that news about Giles today because it 100% makes sense, and it bodes well for the franchise in 2019 if Giles starts strong.