If the Giants lose Kevin Gausman, they likely would not be able to recoup anything.
Every team will enter an uncertain free-agent market during an offseason that follows losses all around from a shortened season that did not include fans in stands. Nothing has been normal since the coronavirus entered the country, and there is a good chance baseball contracts will follow suit.
The qualifying offer, according to The Athletic, will rise from $17.8 million to $18.9 million. It’s the result of the mean salary of MLB’s 125 highest-paid players, giving clubs the opportunity to hold onto their own free agents for a season or, if another club signs them, brings a compensatory draft pick. The Giants tagged Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith last season, and because they agreed to deals with other teams, the Giants were able to draft lefty pitcher Nick Swiney and shortstop Jimmy Glowenke.
There has been wonder whether they could handle Gausman similarly, either absorbing the pricy one-year pact or, if another team pounces, accepting the compensation. But with the price steeper and with teams in financial positions that should lead to safer, less-expensive deals, the qualifying offer figures to be less of an appealing option this offseason. For teams that do give out qualifying offers, there’s an excellent chance they will be accepted.
“The bottom line is no teams know what the revenue picture is going to look like in 2021,” Farhan Zaidi said last week. “It’s going to depend on social-distancing scenarios, what percent capacity are allowed in our stadiums, and so it’s really hard to put stakes in the ground in terms of payroll.”
Gausman is the only qualifying-offer possibility for the Giants, who also will have Drew Smyly, Tony Watson and Trevor Cahill hitting the market.
The 29-year-old from Colorado was the Giants’ best and most consistent pitcher in 2020, finishing with a 3.62 ERA in 59 2/3 innings, in which he struck out 79. He got better as the season got longer, pitching to a 2.25 ERA in five September appearances and showing the nasty stuff and excellent splitter that made him a fourth-overall pick in 2012.
Because of struggles that led to his exit from Atlanta and his becoming a reliever with Cincinnati in 2019, the Giants were able to land him for $9 million last offseason. Though it is unclear how much teams will glean from this year’s short sample size, he likely has positioned himself for a multiyear deal and perhaps with the Giants, who have said they want him back, and he has said the interest is mutual.
“I would love to come back. I think I’ve been pretty open that I feel good here,” Gausman said late last month. “I really like this club, I really like the team. More than anything I really like the guys.”