Ken Giles is once again reporting elbow inflammation. Does that mean that he is off the trade table, or only that the Jays need to be more creative with risk-sharing?
Ken Giles is once again dealing with elbow inflammation. With less than two days to go before the trade deadline (and no August trades under the new rules), does this mean that the Blue Jays can no longer trade him?
If Giles were only a 2019 rental, an injury of this type could be a total value-killer. But Giles is under team control through 2020. So even (worst case scenario) if he were to miss all the rest of 2019, he would still have (considerable) value.
The issue is one of risk-sharing. So let’s talk PTBNL.
There have been examples of teams using “players to be named later” as a way of mitigating risk. An example would be Dave Winfield in 1994:
"While a member of the Minnesota Twins, Winfield was traded on August 31, 1994 to the Cleveland Indians for a PTBNL. Under the terms and conditions of the trade, if Winfield appeared in 16 or more games with the Indians, the Twins would receive a Class AA-level PTBNL, but if he played between one and 15 games the PTBNL would be Class A-level."
So why would the Jays consider a deal like this one? Firstly, because Giles’ 2019 performance is at the highest level he has produced since 2014. So if the goal is to sell high, now is the time. And second, many teams are looking for bullpen help not only for the remainder of the 2019 season but also for the playoffs. So keeping Giles until the 2019-20 offseason effectively cuts his playoff value in half – from two runs to one.
Toronto Blue Jays
And what would a deal look like? Probably something like the Winfield one. If Giles is healthy and available to pitch a minimum of XX innings in the remainder of 2019 and the 2019 playoffs, the Jays can pick from players A, B, or C – likely fairly well-regarded minor leaguers. If Giles does not meet those targets, then the Jays pick from players D, E or F – likely minor leaguers who are still good, but not quite as attractive as the first set. This paradigm has a further advantage for the Jays in that they get to have a close look at players A-F for the remainder of the season, before making their choice (likely in November). There might be a breakthrough (or an injury) that would affect their decision.
If the Jays wanted to get really funky, they could even include Giles as player F in the above example. There have been cases in baseball where a player has effectively been traded for himself – most recently, when John McDonald was traded by the Jays to the Tigers in July 2005 for a PTBNL which turned out to be … John McDonald, in November of that year.
Would an acquiring team do this deal? Well, it depends. If a playoff contender had a choice between Giles and an equivalent receiver with less injury risk at an equivalent price, they would probably choose the lower risk option. But if the deadline were fast approaching and a team had been unable to find a better option, the idea of the Jays assuming all of the injury risk might be attractive enough to induce them to take a chance. Worst case scenario, they should have an elite closer for 2020. I would expect that, like all MLB trades, it would ultimately be all about the price.
The bottom line
The Jays have demonstrated a willingness to use the PTBNL tool already this offseason. This might be an even more attractive opportunity.