Ken Giles had one of best seasons of his career in 2019 while anchoring the Blue Jays bullpen. However, here’s why the Blue Jays should think twice about a lengthy extension.
What a difference a year makes. At the end of last season, Ken Giles was coming off the worst season of his career. He was at the centre of some infamous incidents with the Houston Astros and was demoted to Triple-A, only to later be shipped to the Blue Jays at the deadline for another troubled closer.
However, after the change in scenery and an opportunity to hit the restart button, Ken Giles’s 2019 was the complete opposite of his 2018 season. Led by the resurgence of his slider, Giles was untouchable this year, converting 23 of 24 save opportunities. He struck out 14.09 batters per nine innings which propelled an incredible 1.87 ERA and 2.27 FIP. “One hundred miles Giles” quickly became a fan-favourite among Blue Jays faithful.
So, Ken Giles is obviously an upper-echelon closer. Isn’t it logical for the Blue Jays to lock him up as the closer of the future? Well, it’s not that simple. Relievers are some of the most volatile and unpredictable players in baseball. Consider the recent two-year performances of Edwin Diaz and Blake Treinen:
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
- Diaz 2018: 1.96 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 3.5 fWAR
- Diaz 2019: 5.59 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 0.0 fWAR
- Treinen 2018: 0.78 ERA, 1.82 FIP, 3.6 fWAR
- Treinen 2019: 4.91 ERA, 5.14 FIP, -0.3 fWAR
Diaz and Treinen were two of the best relievers in 2018. Just a year later, their performances were comparable to replacement level players. Diaz and Treinen show the year-to-year volatility of relievers, no matter how dominant they seem. In addition to volatility, relievers can also quickly show signs of steep decline. Consider the following pitchers:
Andrew Miller (became RP in 2012, age 33 in 2018)
- 2012-2017: 2.01 ERA
- 2018-2019: 4.36 ERA
Wade Davis (became RP in 2014, age 33 in 2018)
- 2014-2017: 1.45 ERA
- 2018-2019: 5.92 ERA
Kenley Jansen (age 30 in 2018)
- 2010-2017: 2.08 ERA
- 2018-2019: 3.34 ERA
Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, and Kenley Jansen are some of the best relievers in recent times. All three pitchers show a common trend in that they were untouchable during their prime but quickly lost their dominance when they reached the wrong side of 30.
This is where my concern of a Ken Giles extension comes into play. Ken Giles will be 29 for most of the 2020 season. When his potential extension kicks in, he’ll be 30 years old. Based on recent contracts handed out to top closers, it’s reasonable to assume that the Blue Jays will have to offer a 4-5 year extension for about 13-15 million dollars annually. Is Ken Giles worth that risk?
If anything, Ken Giles’ career has been more volatile than the names mentioned above. Furthermore, there’s nothing to suggest that he won’t follow the career paths of similarly dominant relievers.
It’s going to be hard to decide against offering an extension to hard-throwing righty. In a season full of disappointment, Giles’s bounce-back season was a silver lining for the team and for the fans. However, the front office can’t afford to make emotional decisions when committing a large portion of the payroll to one player – especially when the Blue Jays are about to enter their window of contention.
Instead of an extension, the Blue Jays would be wise to see what kind of offers are out there for Giles in the offseason. If a fair offer doesn’t materialize, then another deal can be pursued at the deadline.
What’s certain is this. Based on recent history, there would be a substantial amount of risk that the Blue Jays would take if Giles were to be extended. And because the Blue Jays aren’t imminent World Series contenders, it’s too early to make that type of gamble. Though many fans won’t like the thought of trading Giles, sometimes, tough decisions have to be made in the path to becoming champions.