If the Giants lose Kevin Gausman, it will not be for nothing.
The Giants extended a qualifying offer to the free-agent starter by the Sunday deadline. If the 29-year-old accepts within 10 days, he would return to San Francisco under an $18.9 million pact that would position himself to test the free-agent waters again next offseason, when hopefully teams would be in better financial situations.
Within these 10 days, the Giants also could work out a multiyear deal with Gausman, who was their best starter in 2020. If Gausman believes he can get a better deal elsewhere, though, he could reject the tag and hit free agency with a slightly worse market: If he signs with another club, that club would forfeit a draft pick to the Giants.
What this means is the Giants are taking an $18.9 million chance on a pitcher who often showed the stuff this season that made him the fourth-overall pick in 2012. The depressed markets following a customer-less 2020 campaign made tagging Gausman a risk; perhaps he could be had for less, with teams pessimistic about what payrolls will look like next season. The Giants gave out qualifying offers to both Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith last year and raked in a draft pick for both; this year, Gausman is one of just six to receive the tag. Trevor Bauer (Cincinnati), DJ LeMahieu (Yankees), JT Realmuto (Philadelphia), George Springer (Houston) and Marcus Stroman (Mets) are the others. Among the untagged starters who will be attractive in free agency are Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.
Drew Smyly also is on that list after not receiving a qualifying offer, but both he and Gausman have publicly expressed an interest in returning — interests that are mutual, especially for a club that is so shallow with starting pitching.
With Jeff Samardzija also becoming a free agent, the Giants’ sure options for next season are Johnny Cueto and Logan Webb, and that’s the list. Tyler Anderson is arbitration eligible and will be another financial call, and Tyler Beede should be ready by sometime next season coming off Tommy John surgery. The Giants will be hunting for more free-agent or trade help, a search that likely got a bit easier — if more expensive — in choosing to tag Gausman.
Other roster moves that the Giants made as free agency dawned Sunday:
— Beede, Aramis Garcia and Reyes Moronta were activated off the 60-day injured list and were added back to the 40-man roster.
— Joey Rickard, Tyler Heineman and Anthony Banda were outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento. Banda, a 27-year-old lefty, signed a minor league deal for 2021.