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Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Did Brian Cashman play the Blue Jays at the trade deadline?

Ken Giles was arguably the Blue Jays’ most coveted player heading into this year’s trade deadline, but, as we know, a nagging injury resulted in the team’s closer not getting traded.

According to Ken Rosenthal, Ross Atkins nearly swung a deal that would have sent Giles to the New York Yankees. 

On the day of the trade deadline, the Yankees and Blue Jays made significant progress on a deal that would have sent reliever Ken Giles to New York, according to major-league sources. The Jays were set to receive three prospects, and informed the other clubs pursuing Giles they were going to be moving him elsewhere.

The trade, of course, never happened, and the Yankees backed off too late for the Jays to complete a deal with another club. The most logical explanation is that the Yankees had concerns about Giles’ elbow, though teams had prior access to his medical records and several factored the risk into their offers, sources said.

This would have been the second year in a row the Jays hooked up with their division rivals for a deadline deal. Last year, Toronto sent top starter J.A. Happ to New York in exchange for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney. Happ was excellent for New York down the stretch, warranting him getting a new contract with the Yankees at the end of the season, while neither Drury or McKinney have been impressive in Toronto.

It isn’t all too surprising the Jays didn’t pull the trigger on a Giles deal at the deadline. We all know they wanted to find a deal to recoup more prospect depth, as a closer with one more year of control doesn’t do a team in a rebuild much good, but the nagging elbow injury lowered Giles’ trade value. Obviously, it’s important for the Jays’ rebuild to get as much in return for Giles as possible.

The interesting thing for me here is that the Yankees, who already have a stacked bullpen with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and a wealth of other fireballers, waited to pull out at the last second. Rosenthal claims the issue for New York was Giles’ health, but I wonder if Brian Cashman had an ulterior motive at play.

This part of Rosenthal’s report is the key for me…

The Jays were set to receive three prospects, and informed the other clubs pursuing Giles they were going to be moving him elsewhere. The trade, of course, never happened, and the Yankees backed off too late for the Jays to complete a deal with another club.

There’s no doubt that multiple teams were going to be interested in acquiring Giles. Since being dealt to Toronto in the Roberto Osuna deal last year, Giles has bounced back to become one of the best relievers in baseball. I wonder if Cashman’s play here was to drag the Jays right up to the last possible moment, dangling an impressive package of three prospects, only to pull out to help ensure that Giles wouldn’t be traded to another contender.

Knowing that Giles had diminished value and the Jays still have a chance to deal Giles either in the off-season or at next year’s trade deadline, Atkins would only take an ideal return for their prized closer. In dangling the Jays along, Cashman ensured that a team like, say, Minnesota, who New York will likely face in the American League Division Series, wouldn’t be able to bolster their ‘pen with the best name on the market.

Maybe that’s just me overthinking the whole situation, but it seems like a possibility. Regardless, Giles remains a Blue Jay and we’ll likely hear trade talks around the closer heat back up in the off-season.

I’m not going to lie, I’m happy a deal between the Jays and Yankees didn’t transpire. Beyond not wanting to see Blue Jays play for a bitter rival, Cashman seldom loses trades. The return in last year’s Happ deal, as we know, was thoroughly underwhelming. That doesn’t automatically mean that the return for Giles would have been the same, but it’s hard to envision Atkins winning a deal with Cashman.

  • The Humungus

    I’ve seen speculation that with Betances and (likely) Chapman free agents at the end of the season, Giles could still very much be a target for the Yanks in the offseason. So, this might just be a wait and see by Cashman.

  • TomHorn

    Cashman helped the Jays by trading for Stanton instead of waiting for Harper who is the much better player. Add that salary to Happ’s $17M, that is a lot of wasted money by Cashman.

    • The Humungus

      It may interest you to know that Giancarlo Stanton has played 93 more games in his career than Bryce Harper and put up 9.5 more bWAR in his career than Bryce Harper.

      So, I’d say your assessment that Harper is a “much better player” is incorrect, and not just by a little bit.