It sounds like Ken Giles is interested in sticking around with the Blue Jays beyond the 2020 season, and it would be foolish to let him get away.
The 2020 season was supposed to be a year that the Blue Jays would take some important steps in their rebuild, but it was also going to be an important year of evaluation. How close are they to becoming a contender? The opinions were and are greatly varied, and the proof was going to come on the diamond this year.
Obviously we haven’t had the chance to see what this talented young team is made of yet, but hopefully that’ll still come at some point this summer. If and when it does, the Blue Jays should have one of the more exciting young cores in baseball, sprinkled with some significant veteran talent. One of those veterans seems to have made up his mind about the potential going forward in Toronto, as Ken Giles told Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae that he’s interested in re-signing after his current contract expires at the end of the season.
And if the Blue Jays let walk away, I’ll be the first to call them fools.
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Let me follow that statement by admitting that I understand the risk involved in paying a premium for a bullpen arm (I haven’t forgotten B.J. Ryan, for example), and that under normal circumstances I might have a different opinion. In this case, the Blue Jays will have all the payroll space they need to supplement their young core, and Giles is exactly the type of veteran that could make a huge difference. While he’s sure to get a multi-year pact, the length of his contract should have absolutely no impact on how the Blue Jays approach future deals for potential stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and more, and that’s an important factor.
More likely, Giles likely won’t be able to get much more three or four years on the open market, and there’s no reason the Blue Jays shouldn’t be willing to take that risk. Yes, he’s a potentially premium reliever that other teams will be interested in, but his recent history of questionable elbow health will scare some folks off. The 2020 campaign could have gone a long way toward putting that narrative behind for the New Mexico native, but right now he’s not getting that opportunity.
I say that he’ll likely be held to just three or a maximum of four years because that’s what we saw in free agency this past winter. The longest contract given to a reliever went to Drew Pomeranz on a four-year pact, while others like Will Smith and Will Harris received three year deals. Granted, Giles should have a higher ceiling and potential value than those three, but that injury history will give some teams pause, as will his rocky ending to his tenure in Houston.
As a Blue Jay, Giles has been nothing short of sensational over parts of two seasons, with the only real knock on him being his questionable health. He finished last season on a positive note and was able to avoid surgery, also looking strong during spring training earlier this year. Over the course of 74 appearances he’s posted a 2.48 ERA with a 1.032 WHIP, also striking out 105 batters over 72.2 innings.
He was slated to make 9.6 million in 2020 before the season was put on pause, and with that number in mind, we can probably take an educated guess at what he would need to sign a multi-year pact. Would three years and 30-33 million get it done? I think so, and if it had to go up to 35 million or even a little more, I think the Blue Jays would be wise to make the investment. The reality is, they’re going to have the payroll space, and they have a significant asset that has bought in to what they’re building, and he’s publicly stating he wants to stick around.
I realize that might sound familiar after what happened with Marcus Stroman in 2019, but I think we’re looking at a different situation here. Giles won’t require the type of financial commitment that Stroman would have, either in term or in dollars. There’s also the relationship with the front office, and regardless of where you stand on Stroman, I think we can all admit that he was more outspoken than the average player. I didn’t always mind (there were exceptions, of course), but I’m not so sure the Blue Jays’ front office was very fond of it. For the most part, Giles has quietly gone about his business since arriving in Toronto, and in a lot of ways he’s rehabbed the questionable image he arrived with.
Maybe the front office doesn’t believe in spending big on the bullpen, however, I think the timing is right that Giles could be the exception with this rebuild. If the chips fall the right way, the Blue Jays could be a contender sometime in the next three or four years, and at 29 years old, there’s no reason that “100 mile Giles” couldn’t still be a significant factor. His wanting to stick around is also an important factor, and when you add it all up, I hope the Blue Jays can find a way to make it happen.