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Best fits, potential landing spots for Lucas Giolito after being released by Angels

With the Angels reportedly planning on releasing the righty — who they were aggressive in acquiring ahead of this year’s trade deadline — we go over where Giolito might wind up next.

Lucas Giolito of the Los Angeles Angels throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 28, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Angels 6-4. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It was looking like a quiet Tuesday afternoon around MLB, the calm before the storm of September. And then the playoff chase got flipped on its ear, with a development that feels unprecedented in recent baseball history: The Los Angeles Angels have reportedly placed starter Lucas Giolito, outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Randal Grichuk and relievers Matt Moore and Reynaldo Lopez — four of which they just aggressively acquired at the trade deadline few weeks ago — on waivers, making them available to the rest of the league for free.

It’s a stunning denouement to the Angels’ second half swoon, which began with a resolution not to trade Shohei Ohtani — and get him plenty of help at the trade deadline — but quickly turned sour amid a rash of injuries and frustrating losses. Los Angeles enters play on Tuesday essentially out of the AL Wild Card race, 11.5 back of the Houston Astros with 30 games to play. With the season up in smoke, apparently owner Arte Moreno has decided that saving a month of salary is more important than fielding a competitive team for the next month.

It also begs an important question: Now that these guys are on the market, just where might they end up? For as much as L.A. has struggled of late, these are all significant players with significant MLB track records — particularly Giolito, who’s just a couple years removed from legit Cy Young contention. The former White Sox righty has battled through an up-and-down 2023 season, but you can never have enough starting pitching this of year, and he figures to be in high demand among playoff hopefuls. So who might be able to land him? Here are a few contenders.

Lucas Giolito: Potential landing spots

Cincinnati Reds

Cincy either couldn’t or simply didn’t make a move at the deadline for a badly-needed starting pitcher, and they’ve felt it in the weeks since, dropping 1.5 games out of the third and final NL Wild Card spot at 68-65. Ironically enough, though, that slide has put them in prime position to make a claim for Giolito — the Reds are the team with the worst record that still has a plausible path to the postseason. They also have a giant hole in their starting rotation, with Nick Lodolo still on the IL, Hunter Greene just working back from an injury of his own and Ben Lively (4-7, 5.17 ERA) currently occupying the fifth-starter spot. Giolito would be a massive upgrade, as well as insurance in case any of Cincy’s young arms (Greene, Andrew Abbott, Graham Ashcraft, Brandon Williamson) start to fade in their first pennant chase.

San Francisco Giants

In a remarkable twist, San Francisco’s win over the Reds on Monday night might help knock them out of contention to land Giolito — the Giants are now at 68-63, behind Cincy in the waiver order. If the Reds decide to stick with their young guys, though — or a notoriously thrifty organization decides they just don’t want to spend the money on a team that probably isn’t knocking off the Braves or Dodgers this year — look out for the San Fran.

The Giants are further into their competitive window, and thus figure to be more eager to make a move. They’ve also been struggling of late, tumbling all the way out of a Wild Card spot thanks to a 22-27 record since July 1. Pitching has been a big reason why: San Francisco has cobbled together a successful season despite juggling multiple bullpen days each week, but that’s started to catch up with them, with Ross Stripling and Anthony DeSclafani on the IL and bulk men like Sean Manaea, Alex Wood and Jakob Junis failing to pick up the slack. Giolito would be a shot of much-needed stability, and his fly ball-heavy profile would work well in pitcher-friendly Oracle Park. (Plus, the Giants aren’t hurting for cash.)

Chicago Cubs

If the first two teams decide they’re not in strong enough position to take the risk, though, Chicago almost certainly will. We know the Cubs are all-in on contending this year — they held on to guys like Cody Bellinger and Marcus Stroman while acquiring Jeimer Candelario — but with Stroman on the IL and Justin Steele wobbling a bit of late, they might not have the pitching to make real noise in the postseason. (To wit: They have the seventh-worst starters’ ERA in the month of August at 5.19.) Giolito would give Chicago another solid option behind Steele and Kyle Hendricks, even if Stroman’s rib injury doesn’t heal in time for the playoffs. The alternative is falling back on the likes of Jameson Taillon, Javier Assad and Drew Smyly, which doesn’t feel like a recipe for success.

St. Louis Cardinals

Look, there’s no rule stipulating that Giolito has to wind up with a contender. The Cardinals will have first dibs over all of the above teams, and there’s a compelling argument to be made for paying for a month of Giolito. St. Louis still has a deep collection of position player talent; if they can revamp their rotation ahead of 2024, there’s no reason why they can’t contend for a very winnable division despite how disappointing they’ve been this season. So why not get a head start on free agency: Sign Giolito for a month, getting an up-close look at one of the top available pitchers on the market this winter, getting him comfortable with your analysts and coaching staff and (hopefully) convincing him to re-up in the offseason? And hey, anything to stick it to the Cubs.