The Toronto Blue Jays’ relationship with their closer is an odd one and the future remains rather unclear
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The Toronto Blue Jays have placed their closer on the IL with elbow issues, which could prove to be a big blow to their chances of competing in this wonky 2020 season. As a result of this move, there are a number of questions that arise, beginning with the relationship the closer has with hsi current team.
We know that the option to offer a contract extension to the 29 year old righty is certainly something the Blue Jays should consider. But, as of yet, it has been all quiet on that front. For his part, Giles is very much open to returning to Toronto long term, but has apparently not heard anything from the club. This decision has always been on the back burner with trade talks taking more of the spotlight.
Whether it was last offseason, or what would be the normal Trade Deadline, it was believed that Giles wasn’t long for the city of Toronto. And, why not? It’s not a crazy idea. Since coming to the Blue Jays, he put his struggles in Houston behind him and pitched to a 1.87 ERA, 23 saves and nearly 2 fWAR in 2019. He struck out 40% of the batters he faced while walking 8.2%. It was a great season even if his team was so bad, they couldn’t get him a few more saves. He established some serious trade value.
But, the Blue Jays have had no clear replacement for Giles, necessitating them taking a wait and see approach. Sure, they could have used the lack of other options to motivate themselves to lock him up for a few more years, but the argument can also be made that waiting as long as possible gives them the chance to make sure there are no other options.
This is where it becomes a little more interesting. Last summer, Giles was battling through arm issues. He was listed as “Day to Day” three different times and hit the 10 day IL once. One has to ask why a team that was so far back in the division would continue to run him out there with an injury to something as important as his elbow. Was it to increase his trade value? Or, was it the player’s insistence?
We know that Giles did not want to come out of the game in Tampa Bay, even though his velocity was down and everyone on the field and at home knew he wasn’t right. On the one hand, you can’t blame Charlie Montoyo for letting the player make the call, but on the other, why not protect one of your more valuable resources?
So, here we are with Giles on the IL and the Blue Jays looking to Anthony Bass to fill in the closer’s role. Bass was brought to Toronto in a waiver claim, we didn’t think much of it. We knew he had some experience closing games, but not much. But, he’s looked good enough to the Blue Jays to fill the 9th inning spot. Could they look to him long term? That might be getting ahead of ourselves a bit. They also have a young Canadian, Jordan Romano, who Montoyo has put into some high leverage situations early on. Romano has impressed thus far and, while he may have a ways to go, could possibly pitch himself into the future closer conversation.
All of this is assuming the Blue Jays feel it necessary to have a defined closer. Whether it is Giles on an extension, an internal candidate or an offseason acquisition, they may feel that having a traditional closer is over rated…meaning “expensive”. One thing you may have noticed in playing fantasy baseball this year is that teams are experimenting with different guys on different nights, which makes the Saves category difficult to predict. Sure, there are a number of obvious choices, but the teams that don’t have a Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman are looking for creative alternatives.
Perhaps, there is a transition toward using analytics to decide who pitches when, as opposed to having set roles for anyone. If Player X is your best reliever and you need him in the 7th because the situation is that important, do you hold the closer back because it isn’t the 9th and you’re saving him? When you think on it, it makes less sense to have a set 9th inning guy. It would make sense that the Blue Jays are considering this approach, both for financial reasons and for their love of apparent analytics.
The future of Ken Giles in Toronto is something that has been unclear for a long time now. Montoyo and his arguably irresponsible decision to leave him in a game aside, the front office has not been rushing to extend their closer. To be fair, they’ve never really rushed to sign anyone since they came to Toronto. They very well could be using this time to see if Giles can establish enough trade value. If he doesn’t, he simultaneously keeps his extension cost down. Or, they could be making a move away from the traditional closer role.
Either way, Giles’ situation is a rather interesting one to a team that is taking steps to being competitive and needs all the quality players they can get. They have one on house in Ken Giles, but there seems to be hesitation. Time will tell why that is.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.