Kevin Gausman arrived in the Bay in 2020 with a 5.72 ERA and having pitched for three teams in the previous two years. He’s now leaving as one of the highest-paid starters in MLB.
Gausman and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a five-year, $110 million contract on Sunday night. ESPN’s Jeff Passan first broke the news. The right-hander turned his career around with the Giants, posting two marvelous seasons in San Francisco. And SF now has a Cy Young candidate-sized hole in its rotation.
In 2021, Gausman recorded a 2.81 ERA in a league-high 33 starts. He was even better than that in the first half, when his splitter worked magically; he had a 1.73 ERA before the All-Star break and held hitters to a .159 batting average.
Even with a down second half, Gausman still finished sixth in National League Cy Young Award voting. It was the first time in his nine-year career he received votes.
Gausman’s career arc is remarkable. In August of 2019, the Cincinnati Reds picked him up off waivers from the Atlanta Braves. Just over two years later, after helping the Giants to their winningest season in franchise history while battling his own personal challenges, he and his family are being rewarded with a generational contract.
For the Blue Jays, signing Gausman doesn’t come without risk. Gausman has a career ERA more similar to a third starter than an ace. The past two years may have been an outlier, and signs of slowing in August and September may portend poorly for the future.
But the warning signs didn’t scare away Toronto, who are in win-now mode. The $22 million average annual value for Gausman’s contract would make him the 11th most lucratively paid starter in MLB. He joins a rotation that includes José Berríos, Alex Manoah and Hyun-Jin Ryu in addition to a star-studded lineup that features Vladimir Guerrero, Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernández.
Gausman and the Giants had mutual interest in a reunion, but Gausma told The Athletic in early November he thought he may have priced them out with his excellent production.
“To be honest, I don’t think the Giants expected me to pitch as well as I did this year,” Gausman said. “So I’m not putting my eggs into one basket. I’m trying to focus on what I can control right now, which is basically nothing. But yeah, I hope they’ll call me. And honestly, if they don’t, my feelings probably will be hurt because I felt I was a part of something special.”
San Francisco president of baseball operations has also historically avoided giving starting pitchers long-term, big money deals. Since joining the Giants, the biggest offer he’s divvied to a starter was the three-year deal SF and Anthony DeSclafani agreed to.
Signing a pitcher at such a high figure through his age-35 season is risky. But it’s also difficult to try to replace a Cy Young-level starter on the fly. Free agents still on the market include Max Scherzer — who has been linked to San Francisco — Marcus Stroman, Robbie Ray and Carlos Rodón. Each has their pros and cons, but none of the familiarity with the Giants organization that Gausman has.
Reacting to the news, Alex Wood — who has reportedly agreed to return to the Giants but the deal has yet to be finalized — tweeted in support of his former teammate.
“There are some people you play with in your career that are just genuinely amazing human beings. Gaus is one of those guys. The good guys do win and Toronto just got a baller.”