The Blue Jays didn’t trade Ken Giles over the winter, but as a pending free agent it was widely expected they might in July. Has that plan changed now?
Over the last couple of seasons we’ve seen the Blue Jays trade away a lot of veteran players. It was a complete transformation of the roster that included shipping Josh Donaldson to Cleveland, J.A. Happ the Yankees, Russell Martin to the Dodgers, Kevin Pillar to the Giants, and more.
Entering the 2020 season, it felt like the rebuild was more or less over with, at least the bottoming out part, especially after the Blue Jays spent big to improve their starting rotation. They also now feature a talented young lineup that includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and more, and optimism was really climbing around this team prior to the suspension of Spring Training.
However, there’s still one piece leftover that many of us expected to get traded this summer, and that’s hard-throwing closer Ken Giles.
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It’s not that the Blue Jays don’t have a use for “100 Mile Giles”, it’s more about the fact that he’s set to be a free agent at the end of the 2020 campaign. While it’s possible he could remain in Toronto beyond his current contract, especially after he’s been so positive about his experience with the Blue Jays, it’s hard to say whether the front office believes in investing that heavily in the back of the bullpen. Some franchises will spend heavily on relievers, and others prefer to search for value with the most volatile position on the diamond. The Blue Jays have usually worked with the latter philosophy, but things are shifting as they look to turn this group into a contender, as evidenced by their signing Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year, 80 million dollar pact in December.
Giles, a New Mexico native, has been very effective since coming to the Blue Jays in a 2018 trade with the Houston Astros, but you never know how long an elite reliever can stay at the top of his game. He’ll turn 30 years old in September of this year, and based on the regression we’ve seen from other closers like Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen as they’ve gotten older, it might give Ross Atkins and company reservations about investing heavily in Giles’ future. That’s a big part of the reason many expected him to be traded before the July 31st deadline, assuming the Blue Jays weren’t serious contenders at the time.
Now that we’re facing the prospect of a seriously shortened season, it’s hard to say how that plan could change going forward. I’d be surprised if MLB still didn’t have some kind of trade deadline, but until we know how long the season is going to be, it’s really hard to predict when that could be, or how it might work.
The thing is though, with a shortened season comes the possibility that a lot more teams feel like they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. With a hot start to the schedule, the Blue Jays could very well view themselves as a team that could make a surprise entry into the postseason, and if that’s the case then it’ll be nearly impossible to trade Giles at that time.
Obviously there are a lot of variables involved, but it makes me wonder if it won’t change the thinking of the Blue Jays’ front office when it comes to Giles, and it could realistically push them in a few different directions. Perhaps they might get more aggressive in trying to make a deal before the abbreviated season even begins, or on the other hand, they could be more committed to riding things out with him this year, and even trying to negotiate some sort of extension.
Whatever happens, we know that the Blue Jays likely won’t be taking the traditional approach of shopping a veteran asset in July. That could still come later on, but the shorter the season becomes, the harder it’ll be to find the right window to make a trade.