Phillies: Ken Giles Should Be Considered a Trade Asset


Could the Phillies trade Ken Giles?

Jonathan Papelbon, antics aside, has been one of the league’s best closers over the course of the last calendar year. In the first half of the season, Papelbon converted all 14 of his save opportunities, while demonstrating elite control of all of his pitches. But despite being selected to his sixth All-Star game, Papelbon may not be the most attractive trade asset in the Phillies’ bullpen.

The other day, I was talking to our own Tim Kelly about Jonathan Papelbon and where he could land. In that conversation, I brought the idea of teams potentially looking at Ken Giles as a piece to trade for. For instance, a team like the Detroit Tigers, who have Joakim Soria at the back-end of their bullpen, could use Giles. Giles could slide in as a set-up man in front of Soria for the time being, and eventually become the team’s closer.

The Tigers are just one example of a team that could be a suitor for Giles.

If the Phillies moved Giles, there is no doubt that the fan base would go nuts. I’m not so sure they should, however. If you’re banking on a reliever being the cornerstone of a franchise, stop and re-evaluate your thought process. Hard-throwing bullpen arms blow out all of the time. Papelbon adjusted well to diminished velocity, but there’s no guarantee that Giles will do that when his velocity eventually declines. Giles is 24-years-old and throws in the upper 90’s. No one, including Giles, has a clue how long that will last. If a deal came along that provided the Phillies with more long-term value than Giles, it would make sense to move him.

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Giles has been very good yet again this season. Despite early concerns over a drop in his velocity, the right-hander has a 1.86 ERA, 2.27 FIP and 3.38 xFIP—which rank 25th, 18th and 55th respectively. The jump in xFIP, which calculates the 10-percent of fly balls turn into home runs, shouldn’t be a concern. Last year Giles gave up home runs on 2.8-percent of fly balls. This year, his home run to fly ball rate is 2.5-percent. Sure, it’s gone up this year, but I’d bet it stays below five percent for a while.

Regardless, Giles has been one of the best relievers in baseball the past two seasons, generating 2.5-WAR in 84.1 innings pitched. In those 84.1 innings, he has 113 strikeouts and just 28 walks. This year there are 33 relievers who average 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Of that group, Giles’ 11.41 strikeouts per nine innings ranks as the 18th best. That is pretty dominant.

The most attractive thing with Giles is the club control. This year Giles is in the first year of club control and makes just $519,000. That is a cheap and controllable arm. A potential suitor could have control of Giles through the 2020 season, which could be extremely valuable, especially if he continues to dominate hitters.

Jun 7, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Ken Giles (53) reacts after striking out three San Francisco Giants batters during the eighth inning at Citizens Bank Park. The San Francisco Giants won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The question that remains is what a club is willing to give up to acquire a bullpen arm that could potentially close for them? I’m not really sure, but I think a potential return would be decent. Maybe a top-20 prospect for Giles would get a deal done. I suppose it would be relative to the position of the player acquired to determine their future value. If you aren’t getting a player who projects to be better than Giles, then a deal wouldn’t be worth it.

Another idea would be to move Giles with Cole Hamels, potentially bringing back more of a coup than Hamels alone would.

Also Read: Deep pitching market hurting Cole Hamels’ value

I think teams are insane for trading for older bullpen arms. Take a look at the downward spiral that Craig Kimbrel has gone into this year. Closers are not a smart bet once they hit the free market or get close to that point. If you can buy and control a plus-arm during their pre free-agency years, that would have more value than dealing for a veteran with a lucrative contract.

The return for Giles may also be less than Papelbon because of the name value alone. For some reason, I get the feeling that teams buy names and ignore the potential asset. If I were the Tigers, for example, I would take a shot at a pitcher like Giles instead of Papelbon. The issue is we don’t really know the market or price for a “future closer,” which would ultimately determine if building a Giles-led deal would be smart for either side.

Again, I find it pretty shocking that a team hasn’t inquired about a pitcher who has flown under the radar like Giles. On a losing team, Giles doesn’t serve much of a purpose, so the Phillies should at least monitor the market for their 24 year-old flamethrower.

Next: Phillies Rumors: Cole Hamels to the Dodgers?