The SF Giants have made their first move of the offseason, and it should ensure Kevin Gausman returns next season.
The SF Giants will extend a qualifying offer to righthanded pitcher Kevin Gausman, according to a report from Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic. A qualifying offer effectively offers Gausman a one-year, $18.9 million contract. Just as significantly, if another team signs him in free agency, they will have to surrender draft capital in 2021, and the Giants will receive a compensatory pick.
Per Baggarly’s report, both sides have discussed a multi-year contract but obviously have yet to agree. By submitting a qualifying offer, the Giants simultaneously improved and lessened their leverage in negotiations.
While Gausman now has a guaranteed offer in hand, he will likely find less interest from other teams on the free-agent market. Now that any other team would have to surrender a draft pick to sign him, fewer teams will likely be willing to make a compelling offer.
With this offseason looking like a particularly difficult market for players, Gausman may be heavily inclined to bet on himself again and take the nearly $20 million in guaranteed money. If he can replicate his success in 2021, he’ll be even better situated next offseason. Simultaneously, if he wants more long-term security, a two-year, $28 million, or a three-year $36 million deal could give him and the Giants greater long-term certainty.
The Giants would not offer him a qualifying offer if they did not want him back in 2020. Unlike Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith last year, who clearly could receive better offers in free agency, the market for Gausman was much more uncertain. Given all that we know, it would be surprising not to see him re-sign with San Francisco.
The Baltimore Orioles originally drafted Gausman with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft. He quickly ascended to the major leagues and earned a spot in the starting rotation. However, he’s never taken the final step to becoming a top-flight starter over his eight-year career like some thought he would.
Instead, he’s had flashes but generally been a solid mid-rotation arm. Over his 985.1 career innings, he’s held opponents to a 4.26 ERA (4.06 FIP) and posted a 3.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 2019 though, splitting his time between Atlanta and Cincinnati, he managed just 102.1 innings and a 5.72 ERA. It was easily the worst season of his career.
As a free agent last offseason, Gausman received plenty of interest as a bounceback candidate, but no teams were willing to extend him a significant multi-year offer. He signed with the Giants on a one-year, $9 million pact to rebuild his value. Considering the qualifying offer is worth more than twice last offseason’s contract, he was clearly succesful.
The deal worked out great for both sides. Gausman was easily the team’s best starter all season. He produced the highest strikeout rate of his career and maintained an above-average 3.62 ERA. Like FIP (3.09), advanced metrics were even higher on his performance, suggesting he’d suffered from bad luck.
It seemed like Gausman was making a strong case to stick with the Giants beyond this season. Around the Foghorn’s own, Nick San Miguel was adamant in his belief that the team needed to retain their most trustworthy arm in 2020. By offering him a qualifying offer, it appears that the front office agrees.
Nothing is finalized yet, and Kevin Gausman could still receive a better offer from another team. However, by sending an $18.9 million qualifying offer his way, the SF Giants made themselves the front-runners for his services. Also, they guaranteed they’ll receive draft pick compensation if he does choose to go elsewhere.