The Toronto Blue Jays swapped closers and gained two new prospects a day before the trade deadline.
Barring a subsequent trade on July 31st, the newest closer for the Toronto Blue Jays going forward will be 27-year old Ken Giles.
While many Blue Jays fans upon hearing the names involved were likely more interested in the prospects coming back, the underrated aspect of this deal might be the fact that Giles, when healthy, is a very good reliever.
In fact, when looking deeper into the numbers he is every bit as good as Osuna.
That might be hard to believe considering he has a 4.99 ERA at the moment, and was recently demoted to AAA where his ERA is 8.44 in 5.1 innings of work, but that would be ignoring the underlying numbers that illustrate that the Giles we are seeing in 2018 is really no different from the Giles of years past.
To put it in perspective, here are Giles’ numbers through the years.
2014: 45.2 IP, 1.18 ERA, 1.34 FIP, 1.7 WAR, 12.61 K/9, 15.9% SwStr%, .267 BABIP
2015: 70.0 IP, 1.80 ERA, 2.13 FIP, 2.0 WAR, 11.19 K/9, 14.8% SwStr%, .311 BABIP
2016: 65.2 IP, 4.11 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 1.5 WAR, 13.98 K/9, 19.9% SwStr%, .349 BABIP
2017: 62.2 IP, 2.30 ERA, 2.39 FIP, 1.9 WAR, 11.92 K/9, 16.4% SwStr%, .290 BABIP
2018: 30.2 IP, 4.99 ERA, 2.28 FIP, 0.7 WAR, 9.10 K/9, 16.4% SwStr%, .366 BABIP
As you can see, he is still initiating swings and misses at a high rate, and his FIP is right in line with what he was doing in his elite seasons. His velocity is relatively unchanged from previous seasons as well so there does not appear to be any injury or drop in ‘stuff’.
The one major difference is a huge spike in BABIP (batting average on balls in play). A high BABIP is typically the sign of being unlucky, especially when all his other underlying stats are reasonably close to his norm. His BABIP in 2018 is an extremely high .366. With a normalized BABIP (career .317), his ERA would likely drop significantly. Using ERA to judge relievers can be incredibly misleading anyway, and that appears to be the case here.
So what exactly are the Blue Jays potentially getting with Giles? From 2014-17, a full four years of sample size, here is how Giles ranked against the rest of the relievers in Major League Baseball.
WAR: 7th (7.1)
ERA: 13th (2.43)
FIP: 7th (2.25)
K/9: 10th (12.39)
SIERA: 9th (2.49)
A case can surely be made that Giles was a top 10 reliever in baseball over that four year span, including a season where his team went to and won the World Series.
To give a head-to-head comparison, using 2015-17 as the time frame since it meshes with Osuna’s first season in the big leagues, here is how Giles and Osuna compared over the three years prior to 2018:
Even if you want to conclude that Osuna is better, which is a reasonable opinion, the two are clearly not that far off from each other. It is extremely close over that span, with 2018 being an outlier for both pitchers for completely different reasons.
In this deal, the Blue Jays do lose a year of control, as due to the suspension Osuna will now become a free agent after the 2021 season rather than 2020. Giles will be a free agent after 2020, so he will have two more years after this one.
However, beyond that lost year of control, the Blue Jays gain a reliever that historically should not be significantly different from the one they gave up. Which is important because if the team is out of it again by this time next year, then Giles becomes an intriguing trade piece if he regains his previous form.
Considering where the Blue Jays are as a team, the more interesting story of this deal will clearly be the development of Paulino and Perez. The swap of Osuna and Giles appears to be “I’ll take your problem if you take mine”, which works for the Blue Jays as given Osuna’s legal issues they likely had very little choice but to move on from him.
In the mean time, if Giles turns things around, which would not be a surprise given his underlying stats, then the Blue Jays would have gained a significant big league asset. An asset that fans might not be appreciating at the moment, but could be very shortly.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Srikant Kabse is a long time baseball fan, accountant, and writer. He currently resides in New Jersey, but grew up in Scarborough Ontario where his love for the sport and for the Blue Jays began as a child. Aside from baseball, Srikant’s interests include fitness, basketball, and traveling.