The Toronto Blue Jays enter this offseason with three of their core players from the 2021 roster heading to free agency. Infielder Marcus Semien and southpaw Robbie Ray are both looking to cash in this winter after the stellar campaigns they had with the Blue Jays while left-hander Steven Matz also heads to the open market albeit for less money than what both Semien and Ray will be looking for.
While fans appear to want both players to return next season, there is a possibility that the club will not be able to retain either player or may not want to, and the jury is still out as to whether Matz is on the front office’s radar in regards to a reunion.
If Ray and Matz do end up flying the coop, the Blue Jays will have Hyun Jin Ryu, Jose Berrios, and Alek Manoah rolling into training camp next year with two spots open in the rotation. There are some internal candidates who could fight for the spots like Nate Pearson, Tom Hatch, Ross Stripling, and Anthony Kay (among others) but if the Blue Jays are looking for some experienced firepower for next year, there is one pitcher who could fill in the void.
Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, right-hander Kevin Gausman spent six years with the club before being traded to the Atlanta Braves at the 2018 deadline. He would split the 2019 season with the Braves and the Cincinnati Reds before signing with the San Francisco Giants in 2019/2020 offseason, his home for the past two seasons.
A starter for most of his career, he was used as a reliever during his half-season with the Reds but really found a groove when he joined the Giants, crafting a 3.00 ERA through 45 outings (43 starts) with 306 strikeouts, 66 walks, and a 1.057 WHIP through 251.2 innings of work as one of their top arms in the rotation. For his career, the Colorado product sports a 4.02 ERA through 1177.1 innings with 8.9 K/9 with a 1.283 WHIP, pretty respectable numbers considering he spent six seasons in a tough AL East division and the past two years in the NL West featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
If Robbie Ray does indeed leave the Blue Jays during the offseason, the front office could explore bringing in Kevin Gausman, a familiar face in the AL East.
Gausman was a free agent last offseason and the Giants decided to present him with a qualifying offer, valued at $18.9 million dollars. He would ultimately accept the offer and returned to San Francisco, with the move being used as a potential “prove it” type of year before he heads to free agency again this offseason looking to cash in. The gamble was risky considering he only had the one-year deal but the reward should pay off for him this winter, especially after he posted a 2.81 ERA through a Major League leading 33 starts.
Given his turnaround with the Giants, one can easily see why the Blue Jays would be interested in bringing the right-hander North of the border, so much so that the front office already tried to sign him to a deal last offseason but were unsuccessful.
It was reported that the Jays offered Gausman a three-year deal in the $40 million dollar range, a veteran arm that would help bring stability to a rotation that at the time was heading into the season with Ryu, Matz, Stripling, T.J. Zeuch, and Tanner Roark at the helm. Gausman would be a definite upgrade over a few names mentioned above and even though they were unsuccessful last offseason, it might be worth it to take another shot if the club is unable to bring back Ray and/or Matz for next season and beyond.
The one caveat is that I am almost positive that the previous offer of three years at around $40 million will be too low to bring him to the Blue Jays after the season he had with the Giants on his walk year.
It should be worth noting that he has spurned the Jays before, which could have been strictly financially based, or could be because he doesn’t want to play for the Blue Jays or return to the AL East after moving to pitch in the National League over the past three and a half seasons.
In the end, money can usually sway a lot of interest but signing Gausman will be no easy task given that the Giants are most likely wanting to bring back one of their top pitchers as well as competition from teams across the league.
The deal has to obviously make sense and does not really matter if Ray does return to the Blue Jays, as I cannot see the club spending around $20 million on the southpaw and then bring Gausman in on a deal worth what Spotrac is predicting to be around $22.4 million in terms of market value.
While Jays fans may have their heart set on Ray returning to the roster, if he does indeed leave for another club this offseason, there are other options on the open market.