Blue Jays: One pitcher the team will regret not signing earlier this year
The Toronto Blue Jays were very active this past off-season, with the Rogers owned company opening their wallet and signing outfielder George Springer to a six-year, $150 million dollar deal while also adding free agents like LHP Robbie Ray, INF Marcus Semien, RHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP Kirby Yates, and RHP David Phelps to separate one-year deals.
This was a promising off-season haul to compliment a young core that boasts the likes of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., both of whom are having great seasons at the plate and one that is seeing Guerrero Jr. garner some MVP considerations this year.
Even with the flurry of activity, the Blue Jays are currently on the outside looking in for a spot in the postseason, 10.5 games back of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East and 4.5 games back of a spot in the Wild Card. While fans were hoping for better results at the mid-season mark, the Blue Jays bullpen has been struggling as of late and the club keeps losing the close games that continue to pile up and will surely have an impact on the team’s postseason chances.
The Toronto Blue Jays will regret not being able to get right-hander Kevin Gausman signed to a contract earlier this off-season as the team looks for potential starting pitchers days before the trade deadline.
Looking at the current roster and with the trade deadline just two days away, the Blue Jays will need to add a few arms to the bullpen and most likely another starter if they want to field a postseason worthy team this year. The jury is still out as to whether the team will be buyers or sellers before the deadline and this current road trip against the Red Sox could be a very determining factor as to which way the team sways.
That being said, there is one pitcher the Blue Jays were very interested in this past off-season but were unable to sign, a player that could have really made a difference in the current rotation.
Right-hander Kevin Gausman had a great 2020 campaign with the San Francisco Giants, pitching to a 3.62 ERA through 12 appearances with 79 strikeouts in the COVID shortened season. For his career, the former first-round selection currently sports a 4.03 ERA with 1074 strikeouts through 223 appearances and 1107.1 innings with the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and Giants organizations.
The Giants offered Gausman a qualifying offer for the 2021 season valued at $18.9 million, which makes sense given the season he had down in the bay area.
The Toronto Blue Jays were very interested in Gausman, reportedly offering the Lousiana State alum a three-year contract in the $40 million dollar range before he accepted the QO from the Giants for the 2021 season. While the Jays offer was for more guaranteed money, the right-hander accepted the Giants offer with the intention to bet on himself to have another solid campaign in an effort to improve his stock before hitting free agency again at the end of the 2021 season.
The decision has so far paid off for Gausman as he has been dominant for most of the year with San Francisco, starting 20 games and throwing to a 2.21 ERA through 122.0 innings with 140 strikeouts. He is currently fourth in the major leagues in terms of ERA and ninth in strikeouts while sitting sixth with his 0.92 WHIP.
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If the Jays organization was able to sign Gausman and have his stellar season in the rotation over Steven Matz or the awkward bullpen games earlier this year, the Blue Jays could easily be further up the AL East division leaderboard and potentially in the Wild Card standings. There is no way of predicting if the success that Gausman is having with the Giants would translate to the Blue Jays but it’s a risk that would most likely be worth taking as the club currently sits outside of playoff contention yet boasts one of the best batting orders in the league.
Would more guaranteed money have gotten Gausman to sign on the dotted line?
Most likely, but you can’t fault either side for taking the route that they did at the time.
The right-hander decided to gamble on his future to potentially earn more than what the Blue Jays were offering and the organization appeared content with offering around the $40 million mark, which is not a bad number when looking at his pre-2020 numbers as well as the guaranteed money they were giving to Springer and the rest of the group this year.
The issue with not signing Gausman is the “what could have been”, as the Giants are having a great season and are currently first within the NL West, with the Colorado product anchoring the rotation. If the righty can continue to pitch well, he will not come cheaply if the Blue Jays try to pursue him once again this upcoming off-season, which could take away from signing other potential free agents or hamper internal extensions to the young core.
Not signing Kevin Gausman this past off-season will most likely haunt the Blue Jays front office this year as the team is currently exploring potential starting pitching options like Jose Berrios and Max Scherzer. If Gausman was on the roster, the attention would most likely be focused on the bullpen and the Jays wouldn’t need to add another starter.
While it is easy to criticize decisions after the fact, missing out on Gausman this past off-season will be a tough pill to swallow if the current rotation falls on hard times over the next two months and the front office cannot add any impactful arms as the team tries to contend for a postseason berth this season