Craig Kimbrel’s holdout unsurprisingly came to an end last night when he inked a three-year, $45 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. It was inevitable that Kimbrel would end up somewhere shortly after that MLB draft because it meant whoever signed him wouldn’t have to give up a draft pick in order to do so.
A few hours after Ken Rosenthal broke the news about Kimbrel, Ken Giles picked up his second consecutive save against the New York Yankees, getting Luke Voit to ground out and getting Gary Sanchez and Kendrys Morales to strike out after Sam Gaviglio allowed DJ LeMahieu to lead off the ninth with a single. The previous night, Giles picked up a four-out save, which featured strikeouts of LeMahieu, Sanchez, and Gleyber Torres.
Giles now has 11 saves on the season, which is pretty good given the fact the Blue Jays don’t often give him opportunities to lock down wins in the ninth inning.
Since being acquired from Houston in the Roberto Osuna deal over a year ago, Giles has clearly regained form as an elite closer. Giles has a 1.08 ERA over the course of 25 innings, and while he can be a little erratic, he’s striking out 15.1 batters per nine innings, which is what you like to see from your ninth inning guy.
Giles has been everything the Blue Jays could have asked for. The organization got put into a terrible situation with Roberto Osuna and made the right choice to move on from him. In return, they netted two prospects, David Paulino and Hector Perez, along with a high-upside reclamation project in Giles. The goal from the beginning, given the fact the Jays aren’t close to being good and don’t need a closer at this stage, was for Giles to rebuild his value in a new environment and so he could be flipped to a contender. The Jays get prospects and Giles gets to try to help a team win a World Series. Everybody wins.
Except, of course, fans who want to watch this team be, uh, kinda good-ish this year?
With Kimbrel signed, Giles now becomes likely the best pitcher on the market for teams looking for an upgrade for the back of their bullpen. So, who’s going to be interested?
The Braves: Alex Anthopolous’ club was dealt a big blow when Arodys Vizcaino suffered a season-ending injury early in the season. The Braves went and flipped him to Seattle in exchange for Anthony Swarzak to help their bullpen immediately, but they’ll need more help. Their most consistent reliever has been Luke Jackson, who has virtually zero track record of success. Anthopolous, as we know, isn’t afraid to make deals mid-season to fill holes as the show.
The Dodgers: With stud closer Kenley Jansen’s health a concern, the Dodgers tired to shore up their bullpen by adding Joe Kelly just weeks after he beat them in the World Series. Kelly has been horrible for the Dodgers thus far, posting a 7.91 ERA through 20 appearances. Pedro Baez and Dylan Floro have been good, but the Dodgers will be in rough shape if Jansen goes down with an injury.
The Brewers: This isn’t a team you’d expect to see on this list given how dominant their bullpen was last year, but a season-ending injury to Corey Knebel has opened up a big hole in Milwaukee’s bullpen. They still have Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress pitching in the late innings but could use a third weapon in order to have as good of a ‘pen as they did last year.
The Phillies: The Phillies went all-in this off-season by adding Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, and Jean Segura, but their bullpen needs work. David Robertson and Pat Neshek are both on the Injured Reserve and they’ve been riding on a resurgent season from Hector Neris. Giles started his career in Philadelphia and was sold high after two very good seasons. He would be a perfect fit in a return to Philly.
The Twins: The Twins are enjoying a breakout season thanks in part to nobody else in their division actively trying to win games. They should cruise to a division win on the back of their solid starting rotation and excellent lineup, but Minnesota needs a better closer than Blake Parker if they’re going to take down any of the Yankees, Red Sox, or Astros in the playoffs.
The Red Sox: Speaking of the Red Sox, Boston ultimately didn’t opt to bring World Series closer Kimbrel back due to the fact they already have a gazillion dollars tied into a handful of players. That means they’ve lost Kimbrel and the aforementioned Kelly, two key cogs from last year’s ‘pen, to free agency. Their makeshift bullpen has been pretty good this year, but do you really want to go into the playoffs with Ryan Braiser, Brandon Workman, and Matt Barnes closing games?
In a perfect world, the Jays can start some kind of bidding war among these teams (and possibly others) for Giles and net themselves a wild haul of prospects similar to what we saw a few years ago when the Yankees accelerated their rebuild by trading Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. But, unfortunately, the market for closers isn’t as hot as it once was.
While Giles is more than likely the best relief pitcher available this year, teams are starting to value one-inning pitchers less and less by the year. Last season, we saw teams go after middle-of-the-pack arms like Seung-hwan Oh, Darren O’Day, and Xavier Cedeno rather than going all-in on a closer. The only big-time closer we saw moved was Brad Hand, who went from San Diego to Cleveland in exchange for top prospect Francisco Mejia.
That would be the goal in a Giles trade this summer.