Cubs reportedly scouting former elite reliever Ken Giles
Joe Nicholson - USA Today Sports

Cubs reportedly scouting former elite reliever Ken Giles

by - Senior Writer -

Whenever you get this close to Spring Training, particularly pitchers and Catchers reporting, the rumor mill may slow down, but the under-the-radar signings won't. The Cubs have gotten a jumpstart on those under-the-radar pickups with some of their minor league pickups, as there could be some diamonds in the rough with those additions.

Regardless, the Cubs may still need to be done adding potential reclamation project deals, and one name that came out of nowhere is Ken Giles, as the Cubs were one of 10 teams watching his workout the other day. The 33-year-old Giles worked out in Scottsdale, Arizona, this past week, and from all accounts, he looked good, as 10 teams were in attendance to see what he had left.

If the name Giles sounds familiar, it shouldn't surprise you, as he was one of the game's best closers from 2014-19. At that time, he was known for his 97 MPH heater paired with one of baseball's most lethal sliders. Once he reached the peak of his career in 2019, things began to go south, and that all happened after the COVID-shortened season came to an end in 2020.

Over the past three seasons, Giles has seen his career derailed through various arm issues, leaving many to believe his days as a pitcher could be over. Don't tell him that, as Giles has been on the comeback trail the past season, and judging by his workout last weekend, he may be as close as ever to finally coming back.

If he is healthy and proves his body can handle the workload once again, you know that Giles has the talent to be a massive part of anyone's bullpen. Sure, his days as a lockdown closer or even a setup man may be over, but for teams looking for middle relief options or even depth options in the pen, Giles would be perfect.

Ironically, the Cubs fit that mold in terms of what they want to do with their pen, which could be why they scouted him in the first place. If you have a chance to watch some footage from his workout, you will immediately notice the fastball velocity being slightly down, but that shouldn't shock anyone.

Once, a guy who consistently sat in the 97 MPH range, Giles was averaging 93-95 MPH with his heater last week and touched 97 twice. His slider also wasn't in the 88 MPH range that it used to be, but at 85 MPH, it still had the same elite spin rate and late break that it once had, so don't expect that pitch to be forgotten about.

Having a workout in front of scouts isn't the same as doing it in-game action, but seeing him throw as hard as he was after so much time away makes you feel that he is not only healthy but his body is feeling the best it has in years. Knowing that, and looking at his success before the injuries, should be enough to land him one of those low-risk, high-reward deals the Cubs are known for, which could be another reason they scouted him.

While the velocity is still adequate to make it in the MLB, it will ultimately come down to his command and where that will be. If anyone does take a look at him, look for him to use the entire spring training portion of the schedule as an audition, as his command may be off early. Typically, you wouldn't make a big deal about a player working out in front of teams, but knowing the Cubs success and reputation with reclamation projects this is certainly worth noting.

Even with many fans wanting the Cubs to add more proven and healthy guys to their pen, there is no denying that Giles has had a great career, and there would be literally no harm in bringing him in for Spring to see what he can offer this team. After pitching in 52 games and posting a 1.87 ERA with the Blue Jays in 2019, Giles was shut down after four games in 2020 before missing all of 2021.

He then returned to action with the Seattle Mariners in 2022, where he appeared in five games before being shut down again and missing the remainder of 2022 and 2023. He did, however, have a 0.00 ERA in 2022, so Giles was still showing signs of life as a player. Giles has appeared in 362 games for his career, sporting a 14-18 record with a 2.72 ERA. That includes a 1.87 ERA with the Blue Jays in 2019, 1.80 with the Phillies in 2015, and a 1.18 ERA during his rookie season in 2014.

Along with that come his 115 career saves as Giles was one of the best closers in all of baseball for five seasons. He had a career-high 34 saves with the Astros in 2017, which came after having back-to-back 15 save seasons in 2015 and 2016. Giles added 26 saves in 2018 and 23 more in 2019 while having an ERA under 3.00. No one is expecting those numbers again, but if he can deliver anything close to his career numbers, how could you not want to take a chance on him?

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