Giants: Is Reds non-tender candidate Kevin Gausman a fit?
By Jeff Young
Kevin Gausman is coming off a rough season in 2019 that will likely result in a non-tender. Could he be a fit for the San Francisco Giants in 2020?
MLB teams will have until Dec. 2 this season to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players. Ahead of that deadline, we will be looking at a handful of non-tender candidates who could be a fit for the San Francisco Giants if they do in fact hit the open market.
First up, we need to identify the team’s areas of need this offseason.
In a perfect world, the front office would add the following to the roster before Opening Day arrives:
- Multiple starting pitchers
- Multiple relief pitchers
- Corner outfielder
- Middle infield depth
- Backup catcher
The Cincinnati Reds will be looking to patch up the back-end of their rotation this offseason behind Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Anthony DeSclafani.
Meanwhile, there is another starting pitcher who they will need to make a decision on before that Dec. 2 deadline.
Non-Tender Candidate: SP Kevin Gausman
Need he fills: Starting pitching depth
Kevin Gausman split his time between the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds in 2019.
Across 102.1 innings, he posted an ugly 5.72 ERA, though he did record 114 strikeouts and a much more appealing 3.98 FIP. In short, 2019 did not go well for the right-handed pitcher, and he was relegated to the Reds bullpen after being acquired in a late-season waiver claim. The Reds likely acquired Gausman as a rental, as he is projected to earn $10.6 million in his fourth and final turn through arbitration.
Despite his rocky 2019 season, Gausman has been a steady rotation arm for much of his career. The 28-year-old debuted with the Baltimore Orioles in 2013, and he recorded a 4.12 ERA in 823.1 innings to go with 741 strikeouts from 2013 to 2018.
During the five-year span leading up to last season, he averaged 155 innings per season. In other words, Gausman has a pretty extensive track record of being a quality starting pitcher while soaking up plenty of innings.
His time in Baltimore came to an end in the middle of 2018 when the Braves acquired him to aid in their playoff run. That looked like an excellent move when he produced a stout 2.87 ERA across 59.2 innings following the trade. and the decision to tender him a contract at $9.3 million for 2019 was an easy one.
However, he struggled mightily in his second season in Atlanta, which led them to place the right-hander on waivers in August. The Reds put in a claim, thereby assuming the remainder of his 2019 salary.
So why would the Giants even be interested in Gausman?
Farhan Zaidi has proven in his short tenure as team president that he likes to go after bounce-back candidates. Last season, he brought in Drew Pomeranz after he struggled to the tune of a 6.08 ERA in 74 innings with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. Zaidi could see Gausman’s 2019 season as an outlier, and he may be willing to roll the dice on him as a reclamation project.
The Giants will need to add multiple starting pitchers in order to improve their rotation depth. They have already taken one step toward bolstering their stable of arms by claiming Tyler Anderson off waivers from the Colorado Rockies.
Behind Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, the Giants have more questions than answers. Even with Cueto, there is no telling what sort of workload he can handle in what will be his first full season following Tommy John surgery.
Logan Webb and Tyler Beede finished 2019 on a positive note, but there is no guarantee that momentum will carry into next season. As a result, the Giants will need to prepare for potential regression or injuries, and adding Gausman would help in achieving that end.
The Reds will almost certainly non-tender him as they will not want to pay a $10.6 million salary for a pitcher that they used primarily as a reliever. If and when he does hit the free-agent market, he will likely be seeking a short-term contract to re-establish value, rather than pursuing a multi-year deal.
His track record is good enough that he will appeal to a number of teams looking for starting pitching help, especially considering his history as an innings-eater.
If he happens to have a bounce-back season in 2020 and his team is out of contention, he would then become an appealing trade asset, similar to what the Giants did with Pomeranz when they flipped him to the Milwaukee Brewers and acquired a potential long-term piece in Mauricio Dubon.
Depending on the San Francisco Giants expectations for 2020, adding Kevin Gausman would bolster the rotation while giving the front office the flexibility to fill other needs as well. It’s certainly an idea worth exploring.