Astros to acquire closer Giles from Phillies
Houston has been looking to bolster its bullpen during Winter Meetings
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ken Giles doesn't yet have the track record to be considered one of the game's best closers, but his electric stuff, boundless potential and the fact he won't be a free agent for another five seasons were enough to grab the Astros' attention.
The Astros pulled off a deal to land a coveted piece for the back end of the bullpen late Wednesday, acquiring Giles, a 25-year-old right-hander, from the Phillies in exchange for pitchers Brett Oberholtzer and Vincent Velasquez and Minor League outfielder Derek Fisher, who was ranked No. 8 among Astros prospects by MLB.com, pending a physical, according to a Major League source. The Houston Chronicle reported that Minor League right-hander Thomas Eshelman, the club's second-round pick in the 2015 Draft and No. 13 in the organization, would be the fourth player headed to the Phils.
Neither team has confirmed the deal.
Giles is likely to become Houston's closer, a role he held for Philadelphia last season. He had a 1.80 ERA and 15 saves in 17 opportunities in 2015, averaging 96.5 mph with his fastball and striking out 87 batters in 70 innings.
Luke Gregerson did a solid job as closer for the Astros last season, posting a 3.10 ERA with 31 saves, but the addition of Giles' overpowering fastball likely means he'll close games. Houston acquired Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Will Harris last offseason and had one of the best bullpens in baseball before struggling mightily in September and in the playoffs.
The Astros are taking something of a leap of faith on a guy who has appeared in only 113 Major League games and struggled to throw strikes two years ago, but Giles' recent track record is terrific.
"There's never a complete understanding of what type of pitcher makes that transition into that closer role, into that ninth-inning role successfully," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said prior to the trade. "There's been a lot of good arms, with good stuff that are good in the seventh and the eighth inning and have struggles in the ninth. There are pitchers that have successfully made that transformation and increased their value, and there are those that have gone the other way.
"Having done it, to me, has value that it's more likely to be replicable in the future. Doesn't mean someone that hasn't done it won't be able to do it. Again, I think the way [manager A.J. Hinch] thinks about the bullpen and uses the bullpen, we just want good arms, and when they appear in the game and who they appear against sort itself out based off of who the competition is, who the players are that are coming up in game situation. I'll leave that up to him. My job is to just get him as many good arms as possible, and he'll figure out how to use them properly."
The Astros are still in need of left-handed relief and will now turn their attention to starting pitching. They have interest in Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo, among others.
One thing Houston isn't willing to do is part with some of its young core talent to make a deal.
That includes outfielder George Springer, who hasn't been involved in any trade discussions, He's one of the franchise's cornerstones with second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr.
"Those guys are part of the Astros, and there's no reason for us to move any of those types of players," Luhnow said. "They're here, they're under control for years, they're good, they've played together. It works. I don't think anybody in that group would be going anywhere any time soon."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
With stellar lifetime marks -- a 1.56 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and an 11.7 K/9 rate across 115 2/3 innings -- Giles has needed less than two full seasons to establish himself as one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. The right-hander maintains solid control over his devastating fastball-slider arsenal, and he has been virtually immune to home runs despite making roughly half of his appearances at Citizens Bank Park.
Now on a rapidly ascending Astros squad, the 25-year-old should be a top-tier fantasy closer for 2016. Giles' arrival in Houston will end the mixed-league usefulness for Gregerson, who will slide back into the setup role that he has worked for much of his seven-year career.