Blue Jays: Why Ken Giles Might Be The Next To Go
By Jim Scott
Several contending teams have openings at the closer position. Might Ken Giles be their answer?
The recent trades of Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and Kevin Pillar were made largely to free up playing time for younger players. But the next big trade (and rest assured, there *will* be a next big trade!) might well be someone for whom the Jays do not have an obvious successor.
Let’s talk about Ken Giles.
“Hundred Miles Giles” has 65 saves from 2017 to date – 6th best in baseball. Over that time, his 92.9% save conversion percentage is second among closers (to some guy named Kenley Jansen). Add to that that Giles is young (28 years old), cheap-ish ($6.3 million in 2019) and under team control through arbitration for 2020, so you can see how he might be more than mildly interesting to one of the contending teams who are hurting at the closer position.
Toronto Blue Jays
Giles comes with another potential advantage. For a team with an immediate closer need, waiting until the trade deadline could cost wins that they can not afford to lose, but most teams will be reluctant to sell off veteran assets so early. This is where the Jays might have an advantage. Being committed to a rebuild, and having the “advantage” of a slow start (whimper), the Jays might be willing to consider a trade well before the July 31 deadline.
So what is Giles worth?
When Aroldis Chapman was traded by the Yankees to the Cubs in 2016, New York got four players back, including Gleybar Torres, then the 24th ranked prospect in baseball. Chapman was arguably a better closer than Giles, but the Cubs only got a half-season of Chapman as compared to the almost two full seasons a buyer would get of Giles.
A second comparison would be Giles himself, who was traded from Philadelphia to Houston in 2015 for four players, including Vincent Velasquez (ranked #69 prospect in baseball) and Derek Fisher (drafted #37 overall by Houston in 2014).
Neither of these are perfect comparisons, but they support the premise that MLB closer with experience and control has considerable value.
So who might be interested?
The obvious trade partner is Atlanta, who recently lost Arodys Vizcaino to season-ending surgery. The Braves see themselves as contenders, but face tough competition from the Phillies, Mets and Nats – all of whom are projected to finish ahead of the Braves. To win that division – or to claim a wild card spot – the Braves need a top closer, and they need him now. Atlanta has the added advantage of a GM who is not afraid to deal prospects and has a wealth of good prospects to deal. Might the Jays look for Christian Pache or Drew Waters (both top-100 ranked centre fielders) in return, or perhaps even a young starter like Bryce Wilson (BA#76) or Touki Touissant (BA#49)?
Another potential fit is the Phillies, who have gone “all-in” with their additions of Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson. However, Robertson had a 5.40 ERA before he went on the DL with “right elbow soreness” (uh oh), and Seranthony Dominguez, who was expected to share closer duties, has a 6.00 ERA and no saves to date. Might Phillies top prospect Alec Bohm (projected to end up at 1B or RF, ETA 2021) be in play?
The Brewers’ Corey Knebel will be having Tommy John surgery, ending his 2019 year. His backup Jeremy Jeffress has a shoulder injury himself. Even if Jeffress fully recovers, might the Brew Crew want to build a super bullpen (and keep Giles away from their division rival Cubs)? And might Corey Ray – a potentially mlb-ready OF with plus speed – be on the table?
Given Brandon Morrow‘s injury history, and Pedro Strop‘s rising xFIP over the last 3 years (2.77 to 3.80 to 4.08, and 3.98 so far in 2019), might the Cubs be in the market for closer insurance? And would Ian Happ be well worth a gamble for the Jays?
The bottom line
The Jays might well be the only team in baseball with a near-elite, cheap, controllable closer available for trade right away. The new “hard” July 31 trade deadline might well make teams more eager to trade sooner, particularly if they have a clear need. A Giles trade in May (or even in April!) is an intriguing possibility.