Remembering the Yankees pursuit of Brian Giles


In the second retirement announcement in two days, Brian Giles has decided to hang ‘em up. He had signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers this winter, hoping to win a spot on the bench, but a knee injury held him back. Over his 15-year career Giles amassed a triple slash of .291/.400/.502, good for a 136 OPS+, including 287 home runs and 1,897 hits. He’s certainly not a Hall of Famer, but anyone who finishes his career with a .400 OBP and .500 SLG certainly ranks among the best of his era.

The Yankees and Giles crossed paths in the winter of 2005-2006, as the Yankees sought their center fielder of the future. Bernie Williams, in the last year of his seven-year, $87.5 million deal, had declined considerably over the last few years and by May was replaced in center field, temporarily, by Tony Womack. Even Melky Cabrera got a premature shot that July. With Bernie’s contract off the books, the Yankees could concentrate on finding a true center fielder.

One attractive name among the free agent class was Brian Giles. He had played just 133 innings in center field in 2005, and just 711 in the decade to that point, but the Yankees thought his athleticism would allow him to transition well to the position. Mostly, though, they wanted his bat in their lineup. Even in a down year, 2004, he posted a .366 wOBA. From 1999 through 2003 he had kept that mark over .400, and in 2005 he rebounded to .393. He would have figured somewhere in the middle of the order, along with Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, and Jason Giambi.

The Yankees made their interest known, even enlisting Joe Torre to make the same phone call that wooed Giambi, Mike Mussina, and (sigh) Carl Pavano. It turned out, though, that Giles was never really interested in joining the Yankees and ended up signing a three-year, $30 million contract with the Padres with a $9 million team option for 2009. The Yankees, still needing someone better than Bubba Crosby in center field, ended up signing Johnny Damon less than a month after losing out on Giles.

Though Giles seemed like the better target at the time, the Yankees dodged a bullet when he signed with San Diego. While he had a full and healthy 2006 season, his production declined to below his 2004 level. This came mostly with his power. His ISO dropped to .134, about .050 lower than his previous career low — which came in 2005. Giles did recover some power over the following two seasons, and did have a quality 2008 season. But in each season from 2005 through 2009 Damon outhit him. Giles also performed poorly on defense in right field, and probably would have flopped in center for the Yanks.

At the time, I was a Giles advocate. That OBP was too pretty to pass up. What I did not consider was that Giles could decline with age. He was 35 for the 2006 season, and age certainly did take its toll. I can only imagine what would have happened to the Yankees had they signed him.

Photo credit: Eric Risberg/AP

Categories : Days of Yore


  1. Rose says:

    Over his 15-year career Giles amassed a triple slash of .291/.400/.502

    This is strangely enough the exact same line for his 162 game average.

  2. Mike Pop says:

    Thank you, Brian Giles, for not being interested in the Yankees. Damon worked out much better than I thought he would, it sucked that he couldn’t play CF very well. But w/e. That contract worked out just fine for the Yankees.

    • Steve H says:

      Yeah, while Damon couldn’t last in CF for the length of his contract, at least he was a CF when they signed him. We don’t even know if Giles would have made it one year in CF, that was certainly a leap of faith they would have been taken.

    • Rose says:

      Only difference is…we may have had Bernie a little longer…


    • Slugger27 says:

      ppl always talk about how that good that contract worked out… im not sure i see it

      we signed damon with the intention he’d be a CFer for 4 seasons, and he wasnt. but aside from that, he played well but its not as if he played above his contract. we paid him 52M and over those 4 years he was worth 50.4M.

      he had to be moved positions due to defensive liability and his production value was lower (albeit slightly) than what we paid him… his signing wasnt awful and not saying giles wouldve worked out better (it wouldnt have), but this common refrain i read on this site about how good the damon contract was im not sure is accurate

      • Rose says:

        How often are players paid their fangraphs “value” though? Nobody can predict the future…and a player is usually paid a perceived value based on what the going market and competition is.

        I wouldn’t really go by that necessarily. I’d say we did quite well with Damon. While it would have been nice to keep him in CF…it still ended up working alright for us (w/ Melky and Gardner filling in).

        • Slugger27 says:

          i guess it just depends on how you look at it. was damon a good player for 4 seasons with the yankees? yes. did he play the position we signed him to play and did he outproduce his salary? no, and no.

          • Rose says:

            At the same time…

            In an even bigger picture…we sign every player thinking that they are going to help us win the World Series that year. Doesn’t always happen though :(

            But sometimes you take a gamble and it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In Damon’s case, I’d say it could have been MUCH worse…so I’ll lean towards it working out.

            • Slugger27 says:

              point taken… i think the reason it is perceived to have worked out is the complete lack of OFers in the system and at the major league level over the recent years… so maybe his signing was a necessary evil.

              i kinda view it like the burnett signing. was he a good pitcher for us last year? yes. is a 106 ERA+ what we typically want from a no. 2 pitcher making 16.5M? certainly not. that being said, the signing was necessary because all we had under contract after 2008 was CMW and joba.

              both contracts may have been necessary, as we were desperate for production in both areas to the point we were willing to spend a hefty amount to get it… but that doesnt make the contracts good though

        • I agree mostly with Slugger27. The Damon deal ended up working out because we were able to get average production out of CF in spite of Damon.

          I look at his contract this way:

          In 2006, we paid $13 million for a CFer to put up a wRC+ of 121 with a UZR of -11.6. Is that worth $13 million? Might be a bit high, but it’s fairly close.

          In 2007, we paid $13 million for a part-time LFer, part-time CFer, part-time DH to put up a wRC+ of 103 with a combined UZR of 4.8 (though he was a negative in CF). Is that worth $13 million? No, it isn’t.

          In 2008, we paid $13 million for a mostly LFer to put up a wRC+ of 130 with a UZR of -1.1. Is that worth it? Yeah, sure.

          In 2009, we paid $13 million for a full-time LFer to put up a wRC+ of 132 with a UZR of -9.2. That’s a tough call.

          In a vacuum, for signing a LFer, I’d say we did alright, not good but not terrible. However, this is thanks to getting average production out of Melky in CF for pennies on the dollar. Had Damon put up his wRC+ numbers in CF with a small negative on defense, he’d have been a definitely positive for the money those years. However, this cannot be examined in such a way. If we had a black hole in CF for the length of Damon’s contract, his production in LF would have had to have greatly exceeded what it was to justify the positional move and salary.

      • Getting $50.4M of value out of a player the Yankees paid $52M is just fine. Those numbers aren’t perfect and nobody would claim they are, so all we can really tell from the numbers being that close is that the Yankees got just about the value out of Damon that they paid him. To point to that as evidence that the Damon deal didn’t work out well for the Yankees is inaccurate.

        And the reason why that’s so is because, while, yes, his defensive value declined, he also performed better offensively than expected. Per OPS+ and wRC+, the Yankees got Damon’s two best offensive seasons, and a third good season that easily rates as one of the best of his career. Getting three of a guy’s best seasons (and arguably his two very best), on the offensive side of things, during a 4 year contract, is pretty sweet.

        Now, just to clarify… I’ve been one of the people around here who have talked about how good Damon was for the Yankees, but I don’t think I nor anyone else would argue that it was some sort of huge coup or crazy victory for the Yankees. The guy performed well for the Yankees, and they got good value out of him, that’s all. I think a lot of the talk you’re referring to is borne out of how much criticism the Yankees took at the time of that signing. The common wisdom seemed to be that the Sox were smart to let him walk and that the Yankees were badly overpaying for a guy who wouldn’t be productive for all 4 years of the contract. I think that’s why people tend to talk about how good Damon actually was during his tenure with the Yankees… There were a ton of naysayers when Damon was signed, and they were largely wrong.

  3. Steve H says:

    If there were more women in the BBWAA, Giles would certainly be a Hall of Famer. There’s some real fear there, not that contrived made up Jim Rice nonsense.

  4. A.D. says:

    Worked out for the better, though perhaps Giles power numbers wouldn’t have suffered as much in Yankee stadium & better lineup around him

  5. Hughesus Christo says:

    Signing a 35 year old corner outfielder to play CF was a great idea!

  6. How awesome would it have been to have had Giles’ entrance music be “Smack My Bitch Up”?

    Back to topic, we’re fortunate to have not signed Giles given his fairly sudden decline. I don’t like just throwing out accusations on guys who have never tested positive, but Giles’ numbers from 99-2002 were regularly in the high 30s in HRs. After that the high was 23 and mostly around 15 in the upcoming years.

    It’s just fishy, that’s all.

  7. Though Giles seemed like the better target at the time, the Yankees dodged a bullet when he signed with San Diego. While he had a full and healthy 2006 season, his production declined to below his 2004 level. This came mostly with his power. His ISO dropped to .134, about .050 lower than his previous career low — which came in 2005.


    Giles, 1995-2003: .563 SLG
    Giles, 2004-2008: .433 SLG

    Two things happened during that 2004-2008 stretch:

    A) Brian Giles got older, and
    B) Brian Giles played half of his games here:

  8. Tbord says:

    What did the Restaurant owner say in Goodfellas when he lost his business? *^%$# shame!

  9. Rose says:

    Brian Giles was traded to the Padres in 2003 for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and Corey Stewart.

    Who would you rather have? Jason Bay through his current year? Or Brian Giles through his similar seasons?

    It’s weird thinking that Brian Giles may have been way better…because he was so under the radar. He was like the Rafael Palmeiro without the conviction…

  10. YankeesJunkie says:

    Considering that Giles has never played for a big market team and when he was with the Indians he was just starting his career. However, he was a great player who would have been beneficial for any team that signed him.

  11. JOCKpost says:

    Not to get all TMZ-ish on you, but I heard today that Giles was named by Jason Kendall to be known for illegally taking Adderall to help him play better.

  12. Accent Shallow says:

    I’ll just leave this here.

    (It’s topical, check the last batter)

  13. piratesmvp04 says:

    He was a great player, and I still have a bobblehead of him when played for Pittsburgh. But, the trade for Jason Bay was a smart move and one of the few good moves former GM Littlefield ever made.

  14. Jeremy says:

    I think that Giles would have actually done very well for a couple years in Yankee Stadium. Some of those doubles he hit in ’06 would likely have turned into homers in Yankee Stadium. I don’t have the park adjusted stats, but Giles’ would have been worth it for the Yanks as long as he didn’t get too many years in the contract.

    If not? He’d be easily replaceable in New York. That said, no doubt Damon was the better signing.

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.