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.
BREAKING: Right-hander Kevin Gausman and the Toronto Blue Jays are in agreement on a five-year, $110 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
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.