Things have gone from bad to worse for Ken Giles as he hits the injured list yet again, but that doesn’t mean the Blue Jays should dismiss the idea of re-signing him this winter.
Ignoring three out of the last five games, the Blue Jays have had a spectacular performance from their bullpen this season. Oddly enough, they’ve done it almost completely without their most established, and arguably most talented reliever.
It’s been a nightmare season for Ken Giles so far, and Wednesday’s news that he’s headed back to the Injured List with another forearm strain won’t make things any better. It sounds like he’ll probably remain out for the rest of the season too, and if so, that’s not an ideal place to be heading into free agency this winter. He made two appearances at the start of the year, and two more recently after returning from the IL, but he’ll finish with a 9.82 ERA and a 2.182 WHIP over just 3.2 innings.
Prior to the start of this season, it looked like the soon to be 30-year-old was headed for a lucrative payday on the free agent market, as teams value late-inning relievers more than ever, and Giles has a pretty solid resume. That said, baseball is becoming more of a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of league, and that won’t help the veteran closer in this case. In fact, it’ll likely ruin his market for the most part, which could give the Blue Jays plenty of reasons to bring him back.
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I know that last statement sounds a little silly, but hear me out on this one. Prior to his injury-filled 2020, with issues that spilled over from last year, Giles was likely going to earn a multi-year deal for a fairly substantial rate. Now, I would be surprised to see any team give him more than one year with an option, but I could always be wrong about that. Had he been healthy and productive this year, it wouldn’t be hard to see the Blue Jays having been interested in him then either, especially with the young and inexpensive roster in Toronto (or Buffalo) these days. That said, I’m sure they’d be even more interested in a one-year, “show me” type of deal to give Giles a chance to re-establish his market.
If the New Mexico native is interested in this sort of thing, I think it would be wise for the Blue Jays to roll the dice that he can be healthier and contribute in 2021. Yes, they have Jordan Romano who looks like a closer in waiting, and Rafael Dolis will have a no-brainer year left on his contract, but Anthony Bass will be a free agent and has likely earned a multi-year deal on the open market. Even if the Blue Jays want to retain all of them, they should have the payroll space, especially for next season.
In theory, Giles would provide next year’s club with what they’ve been missing from him this year, and hopefully have a chance to influence his younger bullpen mates a little more as well. It would also strengthen the group overall any way you look at it, and the Blue Jays should remain playoff hopefuls next season. That’s especially the case if MLB does go through with keeping the expanded playoff format, which sounds like a very real possibility. Either way though, they should have their eyes on competing for a post-season spot in 2021, and Giles could be helpful to that end. And if we’re considering a worst case scenario of a step back next year, he could always be useful trade bait in July, assuming we have a normal season on the next go-around.
While it’s completely understandable if we’ve seen the last of Giles in a Blue Jays uniform, I don’t think Ross Atkins and the front office should, or will rule out bringing him back. The circumstances have changed, and it would have to be for the right term and even dollar figure, but relievers with Giles’ talent don’t grow on trees, and sooner or later he’s going to get healthy and back to his old productive self. Hopefully when the time comes, he’s still helping the Blue Jays.