1:00pm: The teams have announced the move. Atlanta also announced that Mike Foltynewicz is up from Triple-A Gwinnett, so he’ll take Gausman’s spot in the rotation.
12:25pm: The Reds have claimed right-hander Kevin Gausman off outright waivers from the Braves, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). That’s not to be mistaken with the now-defunct revocable August trade waivers, to be clear. The claim means that Gausman is now a member of the Reds, who by claiming him are agreeing to take on the remainder of the right-hander’s $9.35MM salary — a sum of about $2.815MM between now and season’s end.
Cincinnati is obviously banking on a return to form following a change of scenery, as Gausman is mired in the worst season of his big league career. The former No. 4 overall draft pick (Orioles, 2012) joined Atlanta last season in a deadline trade that saw Atlanta take on the remainder of Darren O’Day’s salary while also shipping out international bonus allotments and minor leaguers Brett Cumberland, JC Encarnacion, Bruce Zimmermann and Evan Phillips.
Gausman performed admirably down the stretch in 2018 and was a big part of the Braves’ rotation (2.87 ERA in 59 2/3 innings), but he’s been among the league’s least effective pitchers in 2019. Through 80 innings, he’s pitched to a 6.19 earned run average with 9.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.35 HR/9 and a career-low 37 percent ground-ball rate.
There’s little denying that Gausman has had his share of poor fortune in 2019. His .345 average on balls in play is well north of both his career mark (.313) and the league average (.299), and his 59.3 percent strand rate appears fluky and due for some positive regression toward his lifetime mark of 74.1 percent. Fielding-independent metrics peg him as a candidate for considerable improvement (4.20 FIP, 4.40 SIERA, 4.47 xFIP).
Gausman’s average fastball velocity (93.8 mph) is down from its 95 mph peak, however, and he’s allowing line drives at a career-worst 24.7 percent clip. Opposing hitters are barreling up Gausman’s offerings at a higher rate than ever before, per Statcast, and the increased number of hard-hit balls in the air has come back to bite him.
The Reds don’t appear to have an immediate need for starting pitching, with Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood all in the rotation at the moment. It’s possible that Cincinnati could utilize Gausman out of the bullpen or deploy a six-man rotation to keep their arms fresh down the stretch.
The move could very well have been made with an eye toward 2020 as well — as was the case with their acquisition of Bauer. Gausman is controllable via arbitration for the third and final time this winter, although at present he looks like a potential non-tender candidate. Still, perhaps a strong showing to the season will convince the Cincinnati front office that Gausman is deserving of the $10MM+ salary he’d command in arbitration this offseason. If he is able to return to form, Gausman would slot in fourth behind the formidable trio of Bauer, Castillo and Gray.