Mariners appoint Ken Giles to task

Seafarers announced that they have appointed a replacement Ken Giles for assignment. The move drops Seattle’s 40-man roster to 38.

It is a surprising development, as the M’s did not have an urgent need for a spot on the 40-man roster. Giles also hadn’t taken a spot on the active roster as he’s spent the last week and a half on a minor league rehab assignment while working his way back from shoulder tightness. The right-hander has thrown two scoreless innings with Triple-A Tacoma this week, but the organization apparently wasn’t optimistic about his chances of fulfilling 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 go as the club had hoped. The M’s signed Giles with a $7MM guarantee during the 2020-21 offseason. He had undergone Tommy John surgery the previous October, but the organization agreed to pay him $1.5 million while he rehabbed from the injury last year. In return, they got a potentially elite reliever who had 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 $5 million, which would be a huge trade if Giles regained his pre-surgery form, along with a $9.5MM club option for the 2023 season.

Giles ended up making just five MLB appearances during this deal. As expected, he missed all of last season. While the hope had been that he had been 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 a little more than two weeks on the active roster. He worked 4 1/3 scoreless frames, allowed just one hit, but walked four batters against six strikeouts. In the brief glance, Giles’ fastball averaged 94.8 MPH and his slider checked in at 84.1 MPH. That’s solid velocity, but down from the respective 96.9 MPH and 86.4 MPH averages from his 2019 work.

After five outings, Giles went down with the shoulder problem, from which he has tried to work his way back. Between the diminished velocity and shoulder tightness, 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 or clear waivers in the coming days. There is no real difference between the two in this case as he has more than five years of Major League service. 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 the opportunity to add Giles to the stretch run. If they all pass, he is almost certain to test free agency.

Any team that claims Giles will be responsible for the remainder of this year’s salary (around $1.5 million). A demanding team would get the right to the club option, but they would also be on the hook for a $500,000 buyout if they declined the option. Given Giles’ lack of recent experience, it seems likely he won’t be claimed off waivers, though it would be a more than fair price to pay if another team thought he could recapture something like his 2019 form.

If Giles clears waivers and hits free agency, the Mariners would remain on the hook for pretty much the entirety of that tab. They would have to pay the buyout on next year’s option as well as his entire remaining 2022 salary, except for the prorated portion of the $700,000 league minimum for any time he spends on another team’s MLB roster (which would be paid by the signing club). Should Giles go undrafted and sign elsewhere, he would be a free agent after this season; The ’23 team option will not transfer to another team unless he has claimed waivers.

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