There were six free agents this season to have their team extend a qualifying offer, but it only came down to the wire for one. As of early today, Kevin Gausman was weighing multiple multi-year offers against the one-year, $18.9MM qualifying offer he could accept from the Giants. He will accept that offer this evening, per MLB Insider Jeff Passan (via Twitter). The two sides may continue working on a multi-year deal, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (via Twitter), but either way he’ll be back in the Giants rotation in 2021.
Gausman’s had an up-and-down career to this point. He broke out as a solid rotation arm as a 25-year-old for the Orioles in 2016, beginning a three-year run of quality rWAR production of 3.9, 2.0, 3.9, the last of which he earned while splitting his time between Baltimore and Atlanta. Gausman struggled mightily through 16 starts with the Braves to open 2019 (3-7, 6.19 ERA, -0.9 rWAR), but righted the ship with a 4.03 ERA over 22 1/3 innings out of the Reds bullpen. It was enough to earn a one-year, $9MM offer with the Giants in the offseason. He parlayed that deal into a $18.9MM contract for 2021 via 59 2/3 innings with a 3.62 ERA/3.09 FIP. Gausman more than doubles his year-over-year salary by accepting the qualifying offer.
Looking ahead for the Giants, they now have Gausman, Johnny Cueto, and Logan Webb likely holding down spots in their rotation, with Tyler Anderson and Tyler Beede rehabbing from injury, and prospect Sean Hjelle looking to make a run for a spot, writes Pavlovic (via Twitter). That may not be a group set to take down the juggernaut Dodgers, but it’s certainly better with Gausman than without him. Besides, the offseason is just beginning. If the Giants struggle in 2021, Gausman on a one-year deal, at the very least, could turn into an attractive trade chip at the deadline.
As for the other qualifying offers, Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu, George Springer, and J.T. Realmuto declined their qualifying offers, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter), though there was little doubt for any of the four. Marcus Stroman accepted his offer from the Mets today, choosing to take the large one-year contract to play out the beginning of the Steve Cohen tenure in New York.
If neither the Mets nor Giants work out longer-term deals for their hurlers, Gausman and Stroman would enter free agency without the extra burden of a qualifying offer at the end of next season.