Sailors nominate Ken Giles for assignment

The Mariners announced they had named a reliever Ken Gilles for assignment. The move drops Seattle’s 40-player count to 38.

It’s a surprising development, as the M’s didn’t urgently need a spot on the 40-man roster. Giles didn’t have a spot on the active roster either, as he spent the last week and a half in minor league rehab while recovering from shoulder tightness. The right-hander pitched two scoreless innings with Triple-A Tacoma this week, but the organization apparently wasn’t optimistic about his chances of playing 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 $7 million guarantee during the 2020-21 offseason. He had undergone Tommy John surgery last October, but the organization agreed to pay him $1.5million during his rehabilitation from last year’s injury. In exchange, they got a potentially elite reliever who had posted a 1.87 ERA while knocking out nearly 40% of opponents over 53 innings in 2019. The deal came with a $5 million salary in 2022, which would be a huge boon if Giles returned to pre-op form, as well as a $9.5 million club option for the 2023 season.

Giles ended up making just five MLB appearances during that deal. He missed all of last season, as expected. While he hoped he was ready for opening day this year, he injured his finger during spring training which 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 frames scoreless, allowing only one hit but walking four batters for six strikeouts. In this brief look, Giles’ fastball was averaging 94.8 MPH and his slider registered at 84.1 MPH. That’s a solid speed, but down from the respective averages of 96.9 MPH and 86.4 MPH from his 2019 work.

After five outings, Giles suffered from a shoulder problem which he tried to recover from. Between the reduced speed and tightness of the shoulders, the Mariners decided to move on from the 31-year-old.

The trade deadline has already passed, so Seattle will have to place Giles on outright waivers in the coming days. There isn’t really a difference between the two in this case, as he has over five years of major league service. This gives him the right to refuse a minor league assignment and still get the rest of his guaranteed salary even if he clears the waivers. The other 29 teams in the league will have the opportunity to add Giles for the stretch run. If they all pass, it is almost certain to test free will.

Any team that claims Giles would be liable for the remainder of this year’s salary (approximately $1.5 million). A claiming team would get the option right from the club, but they would also be responsible for buying out $500,000 if they declined the option. Given Giles’ lack of recent experience, it seems likely he won’t be claimed on waivers, although it’s a more than reasonable price to pay if another team thought he could take over something like his shape of 2019.

If Giles clears waivers and hits free agency, the Mariners would be hanging on for almost all of this tab. They are expected to pay next year’s option buyout along with all of his remaining 2022 salary, except for the pro-rated portion of the league’s $700,000 minimum for any time he spends on the another team’s MLB roster (which would be paid for by the signing club). If Giles went unclaimed and signed elsewhere, he would be a free agent after this season; the ’23 team option would not be transferred to another team unless he claimed waivers.

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