The Blue Jays are rumoured to be among the teams seriously interested in free agent starter Kevin Gausman, and this isn’t the first time they’ve pursued him.
That fact is part of why I’ve long expected the Jays to be linked to Gausman this offseason, unless of course they were able to re-sign Robbie Ray. Because that hasn’t happened it comes as no surprise that the Jays are linked to the former San Francisco Giant as well as their own free agent ace. Gausman is one of the better starters available on the market, he doesn’t have a Qualifying Offer attached to him (he accepted that offer from the Giants last winter), and there’s a history of the Blue Jays having interest in him before. I can’t imagine a 5.4 bWAR season in 2021 changed that very much.
For those that don’t remember the rumour mill last offseason, Gausman was one of the Blue Jays early targets to improve the rotation. It was reported that they offered somewhere in the vicinity of three years and 40 million for the then-30 year old, but he wisely passed in favour of accepting the QO and becoming a free agent again this winter. That may net him an extra 60-100 million dollars on his next contract, and that’s on top of the 18.9 million he earned in 2020. There were also reports that the Jays were interested in Gausman two winters ago as well before he joined the Giants on his first contract there.
Last season allowed Gausman to increase his earning power after he went 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.042 WHIP over 33 starts that covered 192.0 innings. The Colorado native also struck out 227 batters against 50 walks, earning his first All-Star appearance, finishing sixth in NL Cy Young voting, and even receiving some down ballot support for the MVP award (okay, he only got one vote).
What may hurt his market could be the way he finished last season, as he was much better in the first half than after the All-Star break. Opponents slashed just .159/.218/.258 in the first half compared to .276/.322/.458 in the second. His ERA was a sparkling 1.73 prior to the All-Star break, and was 4.42 in the second half. Like the concerns about how sustainable Robbie Ray’s 2021 campaign could be, Gausman doesn’t have a long history as a truly elite performer so there is at least some degree of risk involved.
To me that makes the Blue Jays interest in Gausman all the more interesting. It’s clear that they see something they like beyond just the numbers, as they were prepared to make him a multi-year offer last winter before he had performed at an ace level for the first time. They’re obviously not the only team that feels that way, as there are reports that have linked at least half a dozen teams to Gausman including the Jays, Giants, Mets, Mariners, Red Sox, and Angels. That said, it feels like Ray might be angling for a slightly better contract than Gausman, or at least that’s the sense that I’m getting. After winning the AL Cy Young award in 2021, that’s probably also fair as well.
We’ll see how things all work out, but with the expiry of the current CBA coming up on Dec 2nd there’s a good chance that Gausman’s situation could be resolved before then. We haven’t heard the same chatter around Robbie Ray just yet, but it wouldn’t be shocking if things got pretty wild over the next few days.