7:35 p.m: Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that Giles asked for the release of the sailors, who granted his request. That should alleviate any concerns that the club has simply given up on him contributing down the stretch. Nicholson-Smith also says several teams are showing interest in Giles, including the Blue Jays, the team he was with from mid-2018 to the end of 2020.
6:05 p.m: The Mariners announced that savior Ken Giles declined an outright assignment and opted for free agency. Giles was designated for assignment on Friday and this announcement would seem to indicate he cleared waivers unclaimed. As a veteran with more than five years of MLB service time, Giles has the right to decline an outright assignment without losing any pay.
Giles, now 31, underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2020. The Mariners later signed him to a two-year deal, knowing he would miss the entire 2021 campaign but hoping for a payoff in 2022. Giles earned $1.5MM. last year and is making $5MM this season. (There was also a club option for 2023, which now appears to be a moot point.) Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to that long-term plan, with Giles missing much of this season due to other injuries. Although it was hoped he would be ready for Opening Day, a finger injury in Spring Training prevented him from making his Mariner debut until June 21. After five appearances at a reduced rate, a shoulder issue sent him back to the IL once again. He rehabilitated from that issue when the M appointed him for a job.
Giles will now head back to the open market and try to find his next opportunity. Before his current run of injury problems, he was one of the best relievers in all of baseball. He was last healthy for an extended period of time in 2019 with the Blue Jays, pitching 53 innings with a 1.87 ERA, 39.9% strikeout rate, 8.2% walk rate and 39.3% ground ball rate.
While dreams of such a performance are sure to leave some people salivating, there are reasons to feel down on Giles for the rest of the season. First, the Mariners didn’t have a need on their roster at the time of his DFA, which may suggest that they didn’t expect his shoulder issues to subside between now and the end of the year. Giles could also be picked up on waivers by any of the 29 other teams, with the claiming club only on the hook for the remainder of his salary this year, which would have been about $1.4MM. That contending team could also retain him through 2023 via the club option in his contract, which would have given Giles $9.5MM next year and come with a buyout of just $500K. The fact that every team passed on that opportunity suggests at least some pessimism from the market.
However, now that he’s cleared, any team could sign him and pay him the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the roster, with that amount subtracted from what Seattle pays. That will make him an interesting wild card in the baseball world until he signs. On the one hand, he is now three years removed from his last signs of effectiveness and has dealt with various ailments since. But on the other hand, with the trade deadline now gone, teams wanting bullpen upgrades have very limited options to do so. Given Giles’ past success and risk-free acquisition cost, teams could consider him worth a roll.
The sailors also notified that captor Louis Torrens cleared waivers and went straight to Triple-A Tacoma. His situation is slightly different from Giles, as he has just over three years of MLB service time. Players between three and five years old can reject outright assignment and opt for free agency, although they must forfeit their remaining salary. Torrens qualified for arbitration this past offseason as a Super Two player and is making a $1.2MM salary this year. With roughly $340K left to be paid this year, no team deemed him worthy of a claim. Although the Mariners have not announced whether he has accepted the job, it seems fair to assume that he has, as the club announced Giles’ rejection and the money Torrens would be leaving on the table by leaving. Torrens isn’t rated very highly for his defense, but provided strong offense last year, hitting 15 home runs and slashing .243/.299/.431, wRC+ of 101. He’s been much worse this year, though, adding just a single long . ball and producing a .214/.262/.252 batting line, wRC+ of 52.