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Kevin Gausman agrees to five-year, $110 million deal with Blue Jays, per report

The Blue Jays bet big on Gausman, who was one of the best starters in baseball during the first half of the 2021 season.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays made a major addition to their starting rotation on Sunday night, agreeing to a five-year, $110 million deal with free agent right-hander Kevin Gausman, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi first reported that a deal was nearing completion.

Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, appeared to be past his prime and hanging on to his major league career by a thread heading into the 2019-20 offseason. He had been designated for assignment by the Braves in August and non-tendered by the Reds following a season in which he posted a 5.72 ERA, and the Giants opened eyes when they signed him to a one-year, $9 million deal.

The Giants tightened up his pitch mix, though, instructing him to make greater use of his splitter, and he thrived in 2020 to the tune of a 3.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts and 16 walks over 59.2 innings during the coronavirus-shortened season. He accepted the Giants’ $18.9 million qualifying offer and looked even better to start 2021. Prior to the All-Star break, he went 9-3 with a 1.73 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP, and a .476 opponent OPS in 114.2 innings, making his first All-Star team while serving as the surprising Giants’ ace.

He hit a bump in the road after the All-Star break, though, throwing for a 4.42 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP, and a .781 opponent OPS over 77.1 frames. He also gave up four earned runs over 5.1 innings and took the loss in his lone postseason start. Despite his late-season drop-off, he still finished sixth in NL Cy Young voting and received a 10th-place MVP vote.

The Blue Jays will hope his second-half struggles were just the product of a brief slump rather than a regression to the mean. If he pitches the way he did for most of his time in San Francisco, Gausman will be a huge addition to a Blue Jays rotation that already includes Hyun-jin Ryu, José Berríos, and Alek Manoah. The pressure’s on, though, as he may be tasked with replacing the production of reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, who is a free agent and is probably unlikely to return at this point, considering that Toronto has already given two nine-figure deals to starting pitchers this offseason with the Gausman signing and Berríos’ seven-year, $131 million extension.