For much of the Philadelphia Phillies’ run to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2008 and 2009, the Houston Astros served as a de facto farm system for the City of Brotherly Love’s franchise. Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence all went from Houston to Philadelphia while the Phillies were tearing up the National League. For the most part, the Phillies remain the winner in every trade. None of the prospects flipped to the Astros have yet to amount to much in the Major Leagues.
It may be time for the Astros to flip the script and make a run at the Phillies’ most attractive trade piece, Ken Giles.
Because the Phillies are still in rebuilding mode, having one of the more dominant relief pitchers in the National League sitting around in the bullpen is not the best use of a valuable asset. Over the past two seasons, the 25-year-old right-hander has a 1.56 ERA in 113 games and 115.2 innings pitched. Giles has struck out 11.7 per nine, while limiting walks for the most part. Opponents are batting just .200 against Giles, and he has allowed a grand total of three home runs in his time with the Phillies.
Giles is a two-pitch pitcher — power fastball at 97, power slider at 87. It works for him because his pitches are that dominant. In his career, Giles has thrown exactly one changeup. Giles’ slider may be the best of any relief pitcher in the league. He has recorded 108 strikeouts in 186 at-bats that ended on a slider. Overall, only just over 10% of his sliders are even put in play. After Jonathan Papelbon was traded, Giles took over as closer, and recorded 15 saves. He did seem to tire down the stretch, pitching to a 3.18 ERA and blowing two saves in September. Giles had previously allowed only four earned runs from June to August.
The Houston Astros need a closer, and may be considering Aroldis Chapman. Giles would be the better choice, with five more years of team control. Chapman would most likely be a rental for Houston. Giles comes with even more control than Craig Kimbrel, and has yet to receive a costly extension. He is not even eligible for arbitration for two more seasons.
The Astros have been smart in building their playoff roster, mostly from within. The front office showed a willingness to part with prized prospects at the deadline this year in an effort to make sure the hot April start was not wasted. The bullpen let the Astros down in the first round of the playoffs against the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals.
Houston is going to go out and get a closer this winter, and the Phillies may be dropping one right in their lap. The price will be high in prospects, but no higher than the price for Andrew Miller. Miller, however, comes with three more years at $9 million per year. The Cincinnati Reds will not move Chapman unless they are blown away by the return at this point of the year. The Reds have all summer to make a trade for Chapman, and do not have to settle for anything less than an a package of top prospects.
The Astros have the prospects in their system to go out and get any of the group of elite relievers on the trade block. Giles is the best option for a few reasons. The Astros need a long-term answer at closer, not a rental like Chapman. Pitching for a better team the past two years, Giles would have easily become a household name like Miller. There’s nothing wrong with the Astros attempting to make a deal for Miller, but saving close to $8 million per year with Giles would give Houston the flexibility to add another top relief arm like Darren O’Day, Joakim Soria, or Antonio Bastardo. Tony Sipp could be re-signed as well.
The Astros should be the next team to pull off a blockbuster deal for a closer. It’s time for the front office to turn the tables on the Phillies and poach a star player from a rebuilding team. For many reasons, Ken Giles is the best choice for the Houston Astros when they begin their search for an elite closer this offseason.