The Seattle Mariners made what is likely to be their biggest move this off-season, inking former Blue Jays and Astros closer Ken Giles to a two-year contract.
Of course, the Seattle Mariners biggest move of the 2020-2021 off-season was adding a pitcher who cannot help them in 2021. It is hard not to laugh at that simple fact. However, it is even harder to not like what the team just did, inking one of the better high-leverage relievers to a two-year contract. Ken Giles will rehab with the team in 2021 after a September Tommy John surgery, but is expected to be back to full health by Spring Training of 2022.
Last time we saw a healthy Giles, he posted a 1.87 ERA, a 2.27 FIP, and a 2.73 xFIP, along with 83 strikeouts in 53 innings (14.09 K/9), good for a 1.8 fWAR in 2019. Giles also excells at avoiding walks, boasting a career 2.82 BB/9 ratio, good for a K:BB ratio of better than 4:1. Giles will be 31-years-old before he throws a pitch for Seattle, but is the likely closer in 2022.
Money is not yet known, but the addition of an established closer to the 2022 roster may signify that the team intends to stick to its word and spend next winter. Of course, owner John Stanton has already pulled back on this commitment once and until he follows through, fans will remain skeptical.
If Giles can bounce back to his 2019 levels, the back-end of the Mariners bullpen could boast Rafael Montero, Andres Munoz, and Giles, potentially the best set-up since Alex Colome handed the ball to Edwin Diaz in 2018. Of course, there is a lot of time between now and next season and trying to predict a bullpen a year in advanced is a fruitless task.
But Giles could be the first step towards actual contention in 2022 (or he could just be a guy they try to trade at the deadline in 2022), but for now, he is an excellent lottery ticket to purchase. The money will likely be minimal in 2021 before a significant bump in 2022. Seattle still needs to add another bullpen arm that will help in 2021, as well as a starting pitcher, if they even want to pretend they care about competing for anything more than 72 wins.
Seattle is in a better position to win in 2022 now than they were Thursday morning and in an off-season that has been filled with disappointment, that is something worth acknowledging.