The sailors announced that they had appointed a relief worker Ken Giles for a task. The move drops Seattle’s 40-man roster to 38.
It’s a surprising development, as the M’s had no pressing need for a spot on the 40-man roster. Giles also did not take a spot on the active roster, as he spent the past week and a half on a minor league rehab assignment as he worked his way back from a shoulder strain. The right-hander pitched two scoreless innings with Triple-A Tacoma this week, but the organization apparently wasn’t optimistic about his chances of filling a key role in the bullpen down the stretch.
The move more or less closes the books on a two-year free agent deal that didn’t pan out the way the club had hoped. The M’s signed Giles to a $7MM guarantee during the 2020-21 offseason. He underwent Tommy John surgery the previous October, but the organization agreed to pay him $1.5MM while rehabilitating the injury last year. In exchange, they got a potentially elite reliever who posted a 1.87 ERA while striking out nearly 40% of opponents over 53 innings in 2019. The deal came with a 2022 salary of just $5MM, which would be a massive bargain if Giles recaptures. his pre-surgery form, along with a $9.5MM club option for the 2023 season.
Giles ended up making only five MLB appearances over the course of that deal. He missed all of last season, as expected. Although the hope was that he would be ready to go for Opening Day this year, he suffered a finger injury in Spring Training that cost him more than two months. Giles made his Mariners debut on June 21 and spent just over two weeks on the active roster. He worked 4 1/3 scoreless frames, allowing just one hit but walking four batters against six strikeouts. In that brief look, Giles’ fastball averaged 94.8 MPH and his slider registered at 84.1 MPH. That’s solid velocity, but down from the respective 96.9 MPH and 86.4 MPH averages of his 2019 work.
After five outings, Giles came down with the shoulder issue which he tried to work his way back from. Between the decreased velocity and the shoulder strain, the Mariners decided to move on from the 31-year-old.
The trade deadline has already passed, so Seattle will have to put Giles outright or clear waivers in the coming days. There is no real difference between the two in this case, as he has over five years of major league service time. That gives him the right to decline a minor league assignment while still collecting the remainder of his guaranteed salary even if he clears waivers. The league’s 29 other teams will have a chance to add Giles for the tight race. If they all come through, he will almost certainly attempt free agency.
Any team that claims Giles would be responsible for the rest of this year’s salary (about $1.5MM). A claiming team would gain the right to the club option, but they would also be on the hook for the $500K buyout if they declined the option. Given Giles’ lack of recent experience, it seems likely that he will go unclaimed on waivers, though that would be a more than reasonable price to pay if another team thought he could recapture anything like his 2019 form.
If Giles clears waivers and hits free agency, the Mariners would be on the hook for essentially all of that tab. They would have to pay the buyout on next year’s pick as well as all of his remaining salary in 2022, plus the prorated portion of the $700K league minimum for any time he spends on another team’s MLB roster (which would be paid by the signature club). If Giles went unclaimed and signed elsewhere, he would be a free agent after this season; the ’23 team option would not carry over to another team unless he is claimed by waivers.