Count Kevin Gausman among the many to not want this campaign to end Sunday.
But if it does, he hopes this season will be viewed as a first and not a last with the Giants.
The hard-throwing righty has been public with his appreciation of the club and clubhouse, on his fourth team and not eager to play for a fifth. After another solid start Thursday, the to-be free agent said he wanted to return to San Francisco next year. It needs to be a mutual decision of course, but there will be interest from the Giants.
“I would love to come back. I think I’ve been pretty open that I feel good here,” said Gausman, who stated leading up to the trade deadline that he didn’t want to be moved. “I really like this club, I really like the team. More than anything I really like the guys. I think the staples that we have in our lineup, the experience that they bring every single day — a big part of that, a guy that’s not here is Buster [Posey]. Hopefully he’s going to be back here next year. He was a big reason why I decided to sign here. So coming back knowing that he’s going to be here next year definitely adds another element to it.”
Gausman’s appreciation for Posey was immediate. The two struck up a nice rapport in Scottsdale, with Gausman saying in early March, “I’ve had some good catchers in the past, and no offense to them. Buster’s one of the best in the game.”
Posey opted out of the season to care for newborn twins he and his adopted, so Gausman has thrown to Joey Bart, Chadwick Tromp and Tyler Heineman and never complained, but Posey is in a class by himself.
Whoever the receiver has been, Gausman has been solid all year and has positioned himself to be the Giants’ Game One starter in a playoff series if they survive past Sunday, a notion that Gausman said is “awesome.” He’s gotten better as the season has gotten longer, posting a 2.60 ERA in his past five starts while opponents have batted .161 against him. He has 77 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings this year and has been a bargain for the $9 million the Giants lured him with last offseason.
The free-agent market will be unique this coming offseason after a year in which clubs lost money because of the pandemic. But Gausman is still a prime candidate for the qualifying offer, which would involve a one-year offer in the realm of $18 million from the Giants, who would gain a draft pick if he signed elsewhere. But in emerging as the club’s ace, he’s also made a case for a multiyear deal, of which this Giants regime has only given to Wilmer Flores.
The Giants’ pitching rotation will be filled with questions entering the offseason, returning Johnny Cueto, Logan Webb and Tyler Anderson, while Tyler Beede hopes to be healthy coming off Tommy John surgery. Gausman, Drew Smyly (who also is a qualifying-offer candidate) and Jeff Samardzija will be free agents.
It’s early to begin forecasting next year’s rotation as the Giants fight to extend this year. Regardless of whether the club and pitcher agree to another contract and regardless if San Francisco makes the postseason, there’s a decent chance Gausman hasn’t thrown his last pitch this season.
He was an electric reliever for parts of last season and could be an enticing option Sunday, when Smyly is lined up to pitch in a game the team likely will need. The whole staff is drained amid a 13-games-in-12-days stretch.
“I feel like I bounce back pretty quick,” Gausman said.