While arcus Stroman may deservedly be the hot trade target right now as we approach the end of June, en Giles may end up drawing as much or more interest.
It seems like Marcus Stroman‘s name has been attached to at least half of the headlines around the Blue Jays lately and I imagine that’s not going to change a whole lot in advance of the July 31st trade deadline.
Starting pitching is very tough to find, and the fact that Stroman has 1.5 years left on his contract before he’ll become a free agent makes him especially attractive to potential trade suitors. We’ve talked about it quite a bit here at Jays Journal, and I’ve been of the opinion that if they can’t get a return like what the Rays got for Chris Archer last season, then I’d like to see him retained and extended. That said, it doesn’t really matter what I want.
It looks like Stroman is going to be on the trade market this summer, and while he should bring back a fairly significant haul if he is dealt, he might not even be the top trade commodity that the Blue Jays could float to contenders. That designation may just go to Ken Giles, who is having an absolutely dominant season as the closer in Toronto.
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Over the last few seasons in the big leagues, the value of back-end bullpen arms has skyrocketed, both in contract value and in how teams perceive their value. Teams are stockpiling hard-throwing arms and using them in more prominant spots than ever before, and as a result, the value of starting pitching has arguably diminished a little bit. That’s not to say that a bullpen piece is more valuable than a good starter, but it could be interesting to see whether Giles or Stroman brings back a stronger return this summer if they’re both traded in the end.
Stroman is having another strong season with a 3.02 ERA and a 1.252 WHIP through 17 starts, good for 2.5 bWAR already this year. He did have a rough season last year while dealing with shoulder and blister issues though, so the jury seems to be out on just how valuable he might be to an acquiring team, although I personally feel he’s underrated in most circles.
Back to Giles, he has been borderline unstoppable this season, pitching to a 1.33 ERA and a 1.037 WHIP in 27 appearances. He’s earned 12 saves, struck out 47 batters against eight walks in those 27 frames, and he’s been worth 1.5 bWAR already. Like Stroman, Giles will remain under contract until at least the end of the 2020 season, so an acquiring team would be getting a season and a half of his services as well.
Depending on how many teams get involved in the bidding, I could see Giles’ price being extremely high, and there should be a fairly open field of available suitors with him earning just 6.3 million this season. Some of the best recent comparisons we could look at for a deal involving a closer would be the one Giles was in last three that brought Roberto Osuna to Houston, and sent the former to Toronto along with Hector Perez and David Paulino. Considering the circumstances around Osuna in Toronto at the time, I really feel like Ross Atkins and company did well on that one, especially because Giles has been so effective.
Beyond that, I wonder if the Blue Jays might use something like the Brad Hand trade from San Diego to Cleveland last year as a comparison. In that swap, the Padres received Francisco Mejia in return, and he was the top catching prospect in baseball at the time. If Atkins wants to get really ambitious he could look for a package like what the Cubs paid the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in 2016, which included Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, and current Blue Jay Billy McKinney, although that might be a high bar to seek.
I do think that if the Blue Jays are going to trade Giles this season, it has to be for a premium package. He’s been a great fit in the bullpen, he’s very affordable, and he could be a reasonable extension candidate if the trade return isn’t worthwhile, so the Blue Jays shouldn’t feel like they have to trade him even if they might want to maximize the return now.
When it comes to Stroman, there’s a growing sense that they’ve already more or less pushed him one foot out the door, and I don’t think that’s going to help the negotiation power here. It’s already been interesting to watch how writers for other teams around the league are talking about his value, and in some cases, highlighting any negative points that could be used to drive down the asking price. That’s not coming from Brian Cashman of course, but I don’t get the sense that many view him as a potential staff ace, and there are also hypocrits out there like Dennis Eckersley who want to call his attitude into question.
I do, however, feel that Giles should be viewed as a lights-out closer, and that a premium price tag could make the difference in how much value the Blue Jays’ front office can extract for him in July. Maybe they’ll be able to do the same with both pitchers, but I have a feeling that Giles will bring back the more significant return, even if we won’t really know for at least a few years.
All that said, if it were up to me I would like to see both pitchers remain in a Blue Jay jersey for the foreseeable future. The organization has the cap room, the need for high-end pitching talent, and both veterans are young enough that they should remain productive as this rebuild kicks into another gear in the future. However, the closer we get to the July 31st trade deadline the more likely that seems to be.