The Blue Jays will likely shop Ken Giles against this winter, assuming he’s fully healthy. If they do elect to keep him, what would it cost to extend his contract? Let’s have a look and make our best guess.
As the Blue Jays approached the July 31st trade deadline this year, I really thought that Ken Giles had the potential to be their best bargaining chip. As it turns out, he was one of the few veterans that remained in Toronto when the dust settled at the end of the month.
The biggest reason for that was because Giles was dealing with some elbow discomfort at the time, and there were a lot of question marks about his status. Any team that was inquiring in July likely had an eye on contending, and spending valuable prospect resources on a player that’s not 100% healthy is a scary proposition. As a result, if there were any offers to the Blue Jays it wasn’t enough to pry away the 28-year-old closer.
My assumption is that the Blue Jays will shop him this winter, as he’ll be a free agent at next season’s end. While the Blue Jays should be much improved in 2020, I don’t think the front office is going to treat next season as a contending year as they make their plans this winter. By that logic, it would make sense to trade Giles before he hits the open market, and hopefully add another piece to the rebuild.
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On the other hand, there’s an argument to be made for hanging on to Giles, especially after a career renaissance in Toronto. At 28 year olds (he’ll be 29 in a few weeks), he’s certainly young enough to be a peak contributor when the Blue Jays should be competitive again, it’s more a matter of if the two sides can find a deal that works for both parties.
Let’s assume that Giles is interested in staying in Toronto beyond the 2020 season. If that’s the case, what would it cost to keep him around and make him the anchor of the bullpen? Let’s have a look at what the market could look like.
This season Giles is making 6.3 million, which is more than double the 3.066 million he made last year. I do think he’s going to get another raise, but I think the native of New Mexico is likely looking at something between 8-10 million in his final season of arbitration eligibility. The Blue Jays could bypass the arbitration process by including the 2020 season in a new deal though, but it’s still important to know what he could likely get in arbitration.
If we’re looking for comparable deals, it’s not really an easy thing to sort out. The highest-paid closers list is pretty top-heavy, which Kenley Jansen leading the way at 19.33 million, followed by Mark Melancon at 19 million, Wade Davis at 18 million, and Aroldis Chapman at 17.2 million. After that the 5th spot drops all the way to 10 million, which is Craig Kimbrel, who signed a late 3-year pact with the Cubs for 43 million, although his salary will jump up to 16 million for the final two years of his deal.
The emphasis on the bullpen is arguably as high as I can ever remember it, but I don’t know that it means teams will throw boatloads of money at closers. GM’s have shown a willingness to spend on relievers during the last couple of free agency periods, but one could argue that most of the big money deals for closers have been questionable. Chapman has been worth the money in New York, but Davis has been a disaster in Colorado, Melancon has had very mixed results since signing his big deal, and there are reasons to be concerned about how Jansen’s deal will work out in the long term, as his 3.73 ERA this year is a career-worst.
I say all of that because I don’t think the Blue Jays are going to pay Giles more than 15 million per season on a new deal, but I don’t know how many other teams would do that either. For example, Kimbrel sat on the market until early June before someone snapped him up, and I think that’s going to effect the closer’s market going forward. Kimbrel may have shown a few red flags last year, but he is just turned 31 in May and has a long track record of success.
Kimbrel got three years and 43 million, and another reasonable comparison could be the contract handed to Zach Britton, albeit as a set-up man. He earned three years and 39 million to join the Yankees’ super-bullpen, as Brian Cashman and the Yankees have invested heavily in their reliever core. Another decent comparison might be Andrew Miller, who got two years and 25 million from the Cardinals this past winter, although he was 33 when that contract was signed.
Giles has been excellent since putting on a Blue Jays uniform last summer, but he doesn’t have a perfect track record either, which is why I’d be surprised if he surpassed a lot of these other closers. I’m going to go out on a whim and say that if the Blue Jays wanted to extend his contract now, that they may be able to do that for Britton’s contract, or even less. Something in the neighbourhood of three years and 35 million might even get it done. You could even make the argument that the Blue Jays should front-load a deal and pay him more now while their position player core is productive and inexpensive.
Of course, we may never know what Giles’ extension value could be if the conversation doesn’t come up between his agent and the Blue Jays’ front office this offseason, and perhaps that’s not in the plans for either party. However, the Blue Jays should have no problem fitting his salary into their payroll for the next 3-4 seasons, and a veteran like him could be an important stabilizer for an inexperienced group. I say it’s at least worth exploring.