The Braves announced their slate of non-roster invitees to spring training Friday, and while the majority of names within have already been reported or announced over the course of the offseason, there are a few notable names revealed within today’s release. Former Astros and Blue Jays closer Ken Giles, who recently worked out for teams, will be in camp after inking a minor league pact. Former Reds infielder Alejo Lopez and former Royals catcher Sebastian Rivero have also signed minor league contracts with non-roster invitations.
Now 33 years old, Giles was one of the game’s best relievers at his peak. He debuted with the 2014 Phillies and delivered consecutive sub-2.00 ERA seasons. From 2014-19, Giles racked up 114 saves between Philadelphia, Houston and Toronto while pitching to a 2.67 ERA and striking out one-third of his opponents against a 7.5% walk rate. Injuries have derailed that excellent start to his career; he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020, which wiped out his 2021 season entirely.
Giles inked a two-year deal with the Mariners spanning the 2021-22 seasons, with Seattle hoping he’d be healthy for the second year of that arrangement. A strained tendon in his pitching hand pushed back his debut, however, and Giles only wound up pitching 4 1/3 innings with the M’s over the course of that two-year contract. Seattle declined a club option for the 2023 season. He pitched 20 innings in the Dodgers’ minor league ranks last year and fanned 32 hitters but also walked 19 while recording an 8.55 ERA.
Four full seasons have now been completed since Giles was last a dominant big league reliever. It’s perhaps a long shot for him to ever recapture that form, but there’s also little harm in the Braves taking what amounts to a no-risk look at him during spring training. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that the Rowley Sports Management client would earn at a $1.75MM rate if he’s added to the big league roster at any point.
Lopez, 27, has seen MLB time in each of the past three seasons with Cincinnati. He’s played second base, third base and all three outfield positions while posting a .265/.309/.329 batting line over the course of 181 plate appearances. The versatile Lopez has excellent bat-to-ball skills, evidenced by a 14.9% strikeout rate in the big leagues. In Triple-A, he’s walked at a 12.5% clip against a tiny 11.4% strikeout rate while batting .289/.384/.412 in 1030 plate appearances.
The 25-year-old Rivero appeared with the Royals in 2021-22, appearing in 34 games and batting .167/.236/.197 in 73 plate appearances. Rivero spent the 2023 season in the White Sox minor league system, splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. He slashed .219/.273/.326 in that one-year stint with Chicago and is a career .247/.297/.369 hitter in parts of three Triple-A seasons. Rivero is touted as a plus defender behind the plate and sports strong framing marks in the minors in addition to a solid 27% caught-stealing rate across all levels in his professional career.