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The Blue Jays reliever profiles as the type of prototypical closer the Braves seek
With the Braves in the market for a reliever with experience as a closer, the Blue Jays’ right-hander Ken Giles makes a lot of sense. In some ways, he is reminiscent of a Craig Kimbrel Light who is able to come out of the bullpen in the ninth inning and strike out hitters left and right with a high-velocity fastball and dominant slider. Being a good closer means more than being a good reliever. It takes a special mindset, and Giles has just that.
Giles will be a free agent after the 2020 season. He is owed approximately $2.6 million for the remainder of the 2019 season and has one more year of arbitration left.
Why he will be traded:
FanGraphs gives the Blue Jays exactly 0% chance of making the playoffs this season. Giles only has one season after 2019 left on his contract, and it seems highly unlikely that the Blue Jays will be able to turn it around in time in a very tough AL East. The Blue Jays would be wise to move Giles now when he still has another year of control and is likely to net decent prospects in a market for closers that will be friendly to sellers.
Why the Braves need him:
It is important to keep in mind why the Braves will be in the market for a reliever. Atlanta does not have anyone currently in their bullpen with significant experience closing games. They could use someone to pitch in the ninth inning and lock in the win. With all due respect to the breakout season Luke Jackson is having, he is more suited for a setup role than closer.
Giles is the prototypical closer that the Braves lack. He throws hard – his fastball averages 97.2 MPH which places him in the 97th percentile, per Statcast. He strikes out a lot of hitters – 42.2% this season which places him second in MLB amongst pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched. He has a good track record of closing out games – 104 career saves and has converted 39 out of 40 save opportunities over the past two seasons. He has also slammed the door shut in the ninth in many cases, having “clean” outings of no hits or walks allowed in about 45% of his appearances this year (for comparison, Jackson has had clean outings in only about 25% of his appearances).
Additionally, Giles has playoff experience from when he pitched for the World Series Champion Astros in 2017. While he did not pitch well in that postseason, allowing 10 earned runs over 7.2 innings, he did gain valuable experience as well as a bond with Brian McCann and Dallas Keuchel. Some comparisons have been made to this Braves team and the Astros just before they won the World Series. It’s wise to have members from that Astros team that have experienced taking young, homegrown talent and converting it to postseason success.
With a proven track record of closing games and a dominant repertoire of pitches to strike out a lot of hitters, Giles checks a lot of the boxes that the Braves will be looking for in a reliever at the deadline. Having a clear closer would allow guys like Jackson, Anthony Swarzak, Sean Newcomb, and AJ Minter to slot into setup roles that better suit their abilities and help fortify the Braves’ bullpen.
Why the Braves aren’t a good fit:
To quickly recap what I wrote in my profile on Giles’ teammate, Marcus Stroman, Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays’ front office have a tenuous relationship after Anthopoulos left the organization in 2015. There is some concern that the Blue Jays will not work with Anthopoulos or at least would prefer to deal with other teams. How much truth there is to that is difficult to know.
Another obstacle to the Braves obtaining Giles’ services is his recent injury history. Giles went on the 10-day IL in June for inflammation to his pitching elbow. He was activated on June 20 and pitched well in six appearances before the All-Star Break. However, Giles felt inflammation in the elbow again during the break after a massage. Although he was not placed on the IL, Giles was held out from July 4 to July 16 due to the injury. He returned to action on July 17 and allowed two hits, a walk, and an earned run in one inning against the Red Sox. While the results and his control were not good, the encouraging signs were that his fastball velocity was normal, and his slider was effective without any apparent re-aggravation of the elbow. Any potential trade partner would certainly like to see how Giles a few more times before making a move for him.
According to the Baseball Trade Values simulator, a fair trade for Giles would be:
- Braves get Giles
- Blue Jays get Joey Wentz and Huascar Ynoa
As noted in the Stroman profile, the simulator also suggests that a fair trade for both Giles and Stroman would net the Blue Jays Ian Anderson. I think that Braves would be unlikely to trade one of their top three prospects (Cristian Pache, Drew Waters, or Anderson). However, these trade proposals give you an idea of the type of return package that the Blue Jays can expect.