Potential Pittsburgh Pirates trade target – Ken Giles


According to many sources, including Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and the biggest source of all – common sense – the Pittsburgh Pirates trade talks center around Mark Melancon moving elsewhere.

The move comes as no surprise, as Melancon would carry a hefty projected arbitration figure for 2016, and many feel the money spent for a year of a relief pitcher – a closer at that – could be better utilized elsewhere.

Assuming that Melancon is taking his talents elsewhere, the best weapon for the Pirates last year – their unbelievable bullpen – instantly turns the relief pitching from the Pirates’ biggest strength into perhaps the team’s biggest question mark.  Consider this: only three significant arms remain under contract should Melancon depart. Tony Watson, Arquimedes Caminero, and Jared Hughes. Sure, there’s also Chris Volstad and Bobby LaFromboise in tow, but those three represent the last men standing from the unit that boasted the best ERA among relievers in all of baseball.

It’s become clear that Neal Huntington will be in the market for bullpen arms. A name that’s generating a lot of buzz is that of Ken Giles – reliever for the Philadelphia Phillies.  Giles is young and under control until 2021. He is a hard throwing right-hander who relies on two pitches – a four-seam fastball that averages about 98 mph, and a slider that has good velocity but average break.

Here are Giles’ career numbers to date:


In considering Giles as a possible trade target for the Bucs, it’s important to consider two things above all else.

First, can he fit into the Pirates system? The answer is a resounding probably. As I mentioned above, Giles’ pitch mix is very limited. Giles is young enough that he might be very open to developing a third pitch – perhaps a two seam fastball variant – to better fit into the Pirates pitching philosophy. Even considering the limited choices, Giles still had a very good 44.8% ground ball rate last year. Giles has relied on the velocity to generate swings and misses, as his O-Swing % (percentage of swings at pitches labelled outside of the strike zone by pitch f/x) is average at about 36% for his career, while his SwStr % (swinging strike percentage) is well above average at 15.7%.

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The guy just knows how to get pitchers out. There is absolutely something to work with here.

Second, how do the Pittsbugh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies line up as trade partners? The waters become much murkier when we consider this. As told to MLB.com, new Phillies GM Matt Klentak would be willing to deal Giles, but the needs of the Phillies are pretty great. The Phillies are looking to gather young controllable pieces, both in the rotation and in the field. Looking for starting pitchers to “protect their kids” as Klentak puts it, as well as outfield depth, will limit the number of dance partners the Phillies can realistically court. Luckily, the Pirates are one of them. Would anyone in the organization balk at a deal perhaps involving Jeff Locke, Wily Garcia, and [insert mid-to-lower tier starting pitcher prospect here] for Giles/Phillies Prospect X? Truthfully, it may take a little more than that but to me, Giles’ 6 years of control transform him into a viable and attractive candidate to join the Pirates bullpen.

With Giles in tow, the Pirates start the cycle anew. Watson steps in as closer, with Hughes/Caminero/Giles behind him. In two years when Watson’s contract becomes a burden, Giles can step in. It just makes too much sense.

With the Phillies in the middle of a complete rebuild, it might make sense for the Pittsburgh Pirates to get in early with the Phillies and take the initial steps to reinforcing the bullpen.