Is Ken Giles the next Brad Lidge? #100MileGiles
The Houston Astros finally got their flamethrower closer. In a five-player trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Astros acquired 25-year-old Ken Giles, who boasts a fastball that hits over 100 MPH, a high-80s slider, and refined command. Cody Poage covered Giles’ repertoire and peripherals shortly after the deal was announced on Wednesday. In Giles, the Astros paid the perfect price for the perfect fit for their organization.
The Astros sent SP Vince Velasquez, SP Brett Oberholtzer, OF Derek Fisher, and SP Thomas Eschelman to the Phillies for Giles. A lot of interesting names. Yes, Fisher’s bat could eventually come around. Yes, Velasquez has serious upside if he can stay healthy and refine his command. And yes, Eschelman could quickly move through the system if he maintains his collegiate performance levels. But “if” and “could” are always important to stress with prospects.
More importantly, none of the players that the Astros traded were long-term fits with the club. Fisher is easily expendable when Daz Cameron and Kyle Tucker are waiting in the wings, and the Astros still have more young arms than they know what to do with even after the trade. The San Diego Padres’ haul for Craig Kimbrel (as well as who they requested from the Astros in July) seemingly set the tone for a wave of high-priced reliever deals, but the Astros were able to avoid parting with top organizational talent.
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So, no Kimbrel. What about Aroldis Chapman? It’s hard to recall the last time that a player has seen their stock plummet so quickly. Merely days ago, Chapman could have commanded a Craig Kimbrel-esque prospect haul.
In sharp contrast to Roger Goodell and the NFL’s much-maligned and appalling apathy, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been outspoken about refining domestic violence penalties to enforce zero-tolerance. We sincerely hope that Chapman ceases his behavior and that he and his girlfriend receive the support, therapy, and rehabilitation that they both need to recover from this heartbreaking situation. But with uncertainty behind his looming suspension, his high price tag, and the prospect cost that he would require on top of his deplorable behavior, there is simply no place in the Astros organization for Aroldis Chapman.
So, no Kimbrel and no Chapman. The Astros were in serious negotiations with the New York Yankees for Andrew Miller before pivoting their full attention to Giles, and thankfully, no deal was reached. One can safely assume that the Yankees asked for a trade package comparable to one for Chapman. It would be very difficult for the Astros to give up that level of talent for a player who is no guarantee to stick around. Andrew Miller had an opportunity to join the Astros in 2014. He ended up taking $4 million less to sign with the New York Yankees instead, citing a better chance at the Postseason.
But keep in mind that Miller is 30 years old and is owed more money than Chapman through 2018. Compare that to 25-year-old Giles, who has five years of control and is only owed $519,000. The Astros, just as they did with the acquisitions of Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez, traded for a player who can make a substantial impact now and in the future. And, like Gomez and Fiers, Giles was plucked from a rebuilding team and given the ultra-rare opportunity of becoming a franchise legend in what could be the pivotal years of the history of the Astros. Not a bad change of scenery.
Here’s where Tony Sipp is a very interesting piece of the puzzle. Sipp signed a crucial 3-year, $18 million dollar contract to return to the Astros on Thursday. If you add Giles’ salary, the Astros are only spending $6.5 million per year through 2018 for both Giles and Sipp. When Miller, Chapman, and Kimbrel all come with at least $8 million in salary and far less team control, the Giles deal looks even better.
While Giles has put up almost-Kimbrel numbers, he has not been pitching as long as Kimbrel has. Giles’ track record has been stellar in his time with the Phillies, but sustaining this performance long-term is a vital challenge for the Astros staff. Astros fans can relax knowing that Luhnow does his homework and that Giles’s fastball/slider combo is perfect for Brent Strom to work his magic.
Brad Lidge’s name has come up as an interesting and flattering comparison to Giles. Lidge, also 25 when joining the Astros, put up an impressive 2.13 FIP to go with his 13.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 over 70.2 innings as a crucial member of the 2005 Astros. Giles, for comparison, posted a 2.13 FIP to go with an 11.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 over 70 innings with the 2015 Phillies.
Editor’s Note: It appears that the Astros still have some interest in acquiring Chapman via ESPN.
Let’s just hope that Giles’s dominance extends to Albert Pujols in a clinching Championship Series game at Minute Maid Park. Sorry to bring that up.
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**