The Toronto Blue Jays have several choices they could make in dealing with their closer, Ken Giles
The Toronto Blue Jays are in an interesting situation heading into this offseason when it comes to what they could do with their closer, Ken Giles. After bringing him over from Houston, the club has enjoyed the 37 saves that resulted from his turn around. And, after his 2019 showing, they could go a few different routes.
In 2019, Giles went 2-3 with 23 saves in 53 innings. He put up a rather nice 1.87 ERA, 2.27 FIP and a 1.8 fWAR. He struck out nearly 40% of the batters he faced while walking 8.2%. His 1.00 WHIP held opponents to a .188 average. The 29 year old has shown that he is among the league’s best closers and should be treated as such. This is where it gets interesting.
The Blue Jays will first have to decide on whether to tender Giles a contract and potentially go to arbitration. In his final year of this process, Giles is expected to see a pay increase up to $8.4M for the coming season. This is certainly a reasonable deal for Toronto, since the price tag equates to ~1 fWAR. The decision to tender him a contract is as close to a no-brainer as one gets.
Of course, the Blue Jays’ front office will have to be OK with whatever injury ailments he was feeling over this past summer. They would have to feel that he will return to health. Assuming that is the case, we can expect to see Giles back in a Blue Jays uniform. In this scenario, Giles takes the field and closes out games for Toronto in 2019, then hits the free agent market next winter.
This option means that Ross Atkins and co have done some deep thinking about their in house options to take the role the following season. As things stand right now, there doesn’t appear to be a clear front runner for this. That means the club would be left scrambling next winter, so while this option would be the easiest, it is also the most short-sighted.
The Blue Jays could decide that they could get some reasonable value in return for a full season of Giles and look to trade him this offseason. After deciding to tender him a contract, they very well could test the trade market waters. There would likely be a handful of teams out there looking to bulk up their bullpen.
If the club goes this route, they would have to feel uber confident in their ability to fill the closer’s role in another way. They could get a younger arm in return and slot them into the job, but if that young arm could be slotted in, why would a team trade for a much more expensive reliever in Giles?
So, then the option leaves the team thinking they can look within to find a replacement, which seems unlikely, or they could look to the open market. The list of potential free agent relievers houses some interesting names, but not many that quite fit like Giles does. There are names like Kenley Jansen, which are bound to be expensive and there are guys who are less of a sure bet to be successful.
It is difficult to see how this option yields anything but the least desirable outcome(s) for the Blue Jays, so we shouldn’t expect this to be the preferred route.
Toronto could tender Giles a contract, agree to a salary for 2020 and start the season with him as their closer. If they are, in fact, looking to move closer to contending, this seems like the bets option to accomplish that.
If Giles shows that he is just as effective and healthy, he could make a rather nice trade chip in July. We know that the Blue Jays are not likely to challenge the Rays and/or Yankees for the division title and even the Wild Card is a very long shot. So, this coming season very well could be all about maximizing returns.
Assuming he repeats his 2019 numbers, Giles could be someone who fetches a rather handsome return at the Trade Deadline. Again, the club could get themselves a couple young arms with upside, much like they did with Marcus Stroman. This would help them add pieces to a competitive window yet to open.
Of course, the risk in this option is that Giles gets hurt or the return isn’t as significant as they could have gotten if they traded him in the winter. How much will teams really be willing to trade for a rental reliever?
All things considered, the Blue Jays are going to need to think about their long term plans. And, given that we’ve already mentioned how there is no clear heir to the closer’s job, perhaps it makes sense to consider extending Mr Giles.
At 29, Giles has enough years of effectiveness left in him. In fact, his ZiPS 3 Year Projections have him putting up a mid-3 ERA, a WHIP just north of 1 and being worth 1 fWAR in each of the next 3 seasons. He’s expected to notch roughly 70 strike outs in fewer than 60 innings. This is very well something the Blue Jays are willing to take a chance on.
The benefit of this consideration is that there is no rush to do so. An extension could be worked out any time this offseason, during the Spring, or during the season. And, the Blue Jays will have money to spend. Don’t be surprised if this option becomes a reality.
We know that a front office, particularly Toronto’s does not look at every situation in such a linear fashion. They have thought about what is written here and some scenarios that are not here. They will put their collective analytical powers together to come up with a decision they feel works for them. That decision could take the form of one of the ideas above, or even some combination thereof. If they don’t get a trade offer they like, they could make an extension a priority. Or, they could be convinced to abandon the idea of an extension with the right offer.
Regardless, the 2019 that Ken Giles had has given the Toronto Blue Jays some interesting options. And, when you’re running a baseball team, it is good to have options.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.