Giles an underappreciated superstar

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giles padres.jpg.315/.418/.614, 39 HR, 115 RBI
.315/.432/.594, 35 HR, 123 RBI
.309/.404/.590, 37 HR, 95 RBI
.298/.450/.622, 38 HR, 103 RBI
That was the four-season run Brian Giles had from the time he arrived in Pittsburgh in 1999 through 2002. Of course, it was a time of whopping numbers, so Giles never led the NL in a major category. He finished fifth, ninth, 10th and second in the NL in OPS those years, though. And all he had to show for it was two All-Star appearances and a high finish of 13th in the MVP balloting, that coming in 2002.
A 17th-round pick of the Indians in 1989, Giles had the misfortune of trying to climb his way through one of the games most stocked organizations during the early-to-mid-90s. It certainly didn’t help matters that he didn’t hit for power in the low minors. He had a breakthrough season in Double-A in 1993, hitting .327/.409/.452. A similar year followed in Triple-A in 1994, but the Indians didn’t have any room for him. He ended up posting OPSs of 869, 896 and 989 while spending most of three seasons in Triple-A. The Indians found a role for him in 1997, and he hit a respectable .268/.368/.459 in 377 at-bats that year and .269/.396/.460 in 350 at-bats in 1998. But rather than commit to him as a full-time player, the Indians, helped by John Hart at the time, instead traded him to the Pirates for left-handed reliever Ricardo Rincon that November.
Giles was an instant star in Pittsburgh, at least on the field. His 115 RBI in 1999 was the high total for a Pirate since Barry Bonds had 116 in 1991. He became the first Pirate to turn in back-to-back .300-30-100 seasons. His first four seasons rank fifth, eighth, 10th and 15th on the team’s all-time list for OPS. He ended up spending 5 1/2 years in Pittsburgh before being traded to the Padres for Jason Bay and Oliver Perez, something else that paid off big for the franchise. He currently ranks as the franchise’s all-time leader in OPS at 1018, topping Ralph Kiner at 971.
With Petco Park taking a heavy toll, Giles stopped putting up superstar numbers upon arriving in San Diego in 2003. Still, he was an outstanding player in 2005, when he hit .301/.423/.483 and finished a career-best ninth in the MVP balloting. He also excelled as a 37-year-old in 2008, hitting .306/.398/.456 in 559 at-bats. Unfortunately, he fell apart all at once last year. He hit just .191/.277/.271 in 253 at-bats before the Padres essentially told him to take the rest of the season off. Still hampered by physical problems this spring, he chose to retire Thursday rather than carry on with a long shot bid to make the Dodgers.
Unfortunately, while Giles was very clearly one of the NL’s best players for a time, he was never recognized as such. His big seasons in Pittsburgh came for sub-.500 teams that got no attention at all. He went to the postseason twice with the Padres, but he failed to excel in the spotlight. He went 7-for-27 with just two RBI as the Padres lost back-to-back NL Divisional Series to the Cardinals in 2005 and ’06. In all, he was a career .208/.311/.286 hitter in 77 postseason at-bats, most of them coming in Cleveland before he had really established himself.
I certainly don’t expect any sympathy for Giles. He made more than $80 million over the course of his career. I suspect that both he and his younger brother Marcus abused performance-enhancing drugs at various points of their careers, though there’s no evidence that Brian ever failed a drug test. Giles was also accused of domestic violence and sued for $10 million by a longtime partner, and while we have no way of knowing the truth behind her stories, there’s a pretty damning video still floating around that appears to show Giles beating the woman in a bar.
But on the field, Giles was a true star for a time, one who put a bunch of wins on the board for some otherwise lousy or mediocre teams. He ranks with Bobby Abreu, Robin Ventura and Mike Cameron among the game’s most underrated players of the last 20 years. He finishes his career with an outstanding .291/.400/.502 line and 287 homers. His 902 OPS ranks 64th all-time among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances. He’s not nearly a Hall of Famer given his late start and lack of defensive value, but he did play like one when he was at his best.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.