Earlier today, Bruce Levine discussed the current state of baseball on the North and South Side of Chicago, noting that the Cubs are once again at the top of their division, while the White Sox look like a rebuilding team for yet another year.
And in that conversation, he mentioned that the contending Cubs might eventually come calling on the selling White Sox for another cross-town pitching trade, this time for reliever Alex Colome. However, Levine is mostly speculative in his analysis, as he also mentions relievers Shane Green, Will Smith, and Ken Giles as guys who could hit the trade market over the next few weeks. All of those relievers could be reasonably expected to hit the trade market sooner or later, of course, but before today there hasn’t really been anything “concrete” connecting the Cubs to any of them.
But there is now:
On Inside the Clubhouse @670TheScore Jays broadcaster Buck Maritinez confirmed the Cubs have asked about the availability of closer Ken Giles
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) May 18, 2019
Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Maritinez has told 670 The Score that the Cubs have asked about closer Ken Giles, which … whoa.
Giles, 28, has been one of the better relievers in baseball throughout his career (2.73 ERA, 2.34 FIP over 312.2 IP) and is putting up some of the best numbers of his career this season: 1.47 ERA, 1.59 FIP. Indeed, his 38.9% strikeout rate ranks 7th in all of baseball and only one pitcher ahead of him on that leaderboard has a walk rate lower than his 6.9%. Giles is pretty average when it comes to ground balls and contact management, but that’s perfectly fine when everything else looks as good as it does. He’s really, really good.
In addition to everything above, Giles is under control for both this and next season via arbitration, making just $6.3M in 2019. So basically he’s got the holy trifecta: young, talented, and cheaply controlled. Given that the Cubs desperately need a closer this season (with both Pedro Strop *and* Brandon Morrow out at the moment) and expect to be competitive again in 2020, Giles is a pretty ideal candidate in that respect.
But there is more to his story.
Despite still excellent peripherals (3.08 FIP), Giles struggled a lot with his results in 2018 (4.65 ERA) and didn’t exactly take it well, failing to hide his emotions (and expletives) when taken out of a game on more than occasion and was eventually demoted to Triple-A – in part – because of those outbursts. One time, he even punched *himself* in the face after giving up a three-run homer:
Last season, the Astros traded Giles, Hector Perez, and David Paulino to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline for Roberto Osuna … a reliever suspended for domestic violence. Giles was better with the Blue Jays at the end of last year, but didn’t return to his usual self until here in 2019.
It was for all those reasons that the Blue Jays asking price for Giles would be difficult to discern right now. On the one hand, he has that trifecta of youth, talent, and cost control. But on the other hand he had a meltdown so bad last season that the contending Astros – who could’ve used him at the big league level – optioned him down to the minors and then traded him for a reliever who was still serving a suspension for domestic violence. That says plenty, even if that reliever (Osuna) is obviously talented.
At 18-26 and in fourth place of the AL East, I don’t doubt the Blue Jays willingness to move on from Giles for the right price, but I really don’t know what that price will be. Fortunately, this rumor doesn’t strike me as something that’s expected to go down soon. Front offices often feel each other out well in advance of the trade deadline to get a sense of everything we just said we don’t know. And while the Cubs have been known to jump the market in the past – this season would make as much sense as any given how good they look and how clearly they have a need in the back end of the bullpen – I don’t think anyone is overly anxious for the Cubs to send yet another top prospect for a reliever, even one as good as Giles (especially now that they finally have prospects in the top-100 again).
We’ll have to see if this story continues to grow legs, but I don’t expect to hear much more right away. And remember, the Cubs don’t *have* to doll out prospects for closers again this year … because Craig Kimbrel is just sitting out there on the free agent market waiting to be scooped up. He may not be as young as Giles and he may not even be as good anymore, but he can be had for only money, so the Cubs do have options. Stay tuned, though, because if the Cubs remain in first place for long, there’s NO WAY they don’t pick up someone for the back end of this bullpen.