The upcoming offseason’s free-agent pitching market is not flush with ace-caliber talent. There’s Trevor Bauer, who should sign the richest deal in free agency (at least on an annual basis), and then a slew of hurlers with their share of warts. For those who can’t afford Bauer or the many bidders who lose out on him, there will be a shortage of high-caliber talent. Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman are likely the two best pending free-agent starters beyond Bauer, which doesn’t seem all that encouraging.
While both Gausman and Stroman have logged at least OK numbers for most of their careers, neither has been a top-level starter. For instance, the soon-to-be 30-year-old Gausman is only a year removed from the Braves placing him on waivers, but he was a capable starter with the Orioles before then and a good reliever with the Reds after that.
Gausman settled for a one-year, $9MM contract with the Giants last offseason, though that proved to be a great investment for the club. He wound up making 10 starts in 12 appearances as a Giant and pitching to a 3.62 ERA/3.09 FIP with 11.92 K/9 and 2.41 BB/9 across 59 2/3 innings. Among 81 pitchers who accumulated 50-plus frames, Gausman finished seventh in swinging-strike rate, 14th in K/BB ratio and 15th in FIP. There’s a lot to like about that combination, especially for someone who averages around 95 mph on his fastball.
Stroman, who will also turn 30 before next season, is the more accomplished hurler than Gausman. The former Blue Jay and current Met has recorded a 3.76 ERA/3.64 FIP through 146 games (140 starts) and 849 1/3 frames since he debuted in 2014. Stroman continued that sort of production last year between the teams, and though he doesn’t throw as hard as Gausman, he has overcome a relative lack of velocity with a high amount of grounders and a low number of walks. The problem for Stroman as he nears free agency is that he didn’t pitch at all in 2020 because of coronavirus-related concerns. You can’t blame Stroman for exercising caution, but it remains to be seen whether taking the season off will affect him on the market.
Now, considering the lack of quality starters going into the offseason, Gausman and/or Stroman could be in line for qualifying offers and fairly expensive multiyear pacts. Which player do you think should earn more? (Poll link for app users)