NBC Sports

Gausman accepts qualifying offer, returns to Giants for 2021

NBC Sports

The Giants made no secret of the fact they wanted Kevin Gausman back in their rotation in 2021. They crossed that item off their offseason to-do list Wednesday afternoon when Gausman accepted the qualifying offer, which guarantees him $18.9 million on a one-year deal.

The MLB Players Association announced the news shortly before 3 p.m. PT.

The decision, first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN just before the 2 p.m. PT deadline, gives the Giants a dependable arm at the top of their rotation. Gausman currently would be their best option to start next year's Opening Day -- and also gives the sides some breathing room to potentially keep working on a multi-year deal. There were discussions in recent weeks, with both sides knowing they had the fallback option of Gausman returning for one year. 

The deal was one both sides had sought when the offseason began. Gausman said as far back as the Aug. 31 trade deadline that he loved San Francisco and would like to stay long-term, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said after the season that bringing Gausman and Drew Smyly back was one of his top priorities.

Gausman himself reacted to the news Wednesday afternoon.

Gausman was one of six players to get the qualifying offer, which a year ago netted the Giants compensatory draft picks when Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith left for other organizations. Fellow right-hander Marcus Stroman announced earlier Wednesday that he would accept and play on a one-year deal for the Mets, while J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, George Springer and DJ LeMahieu all turned down the QO in favor of the open market. 

 

The Giants signed Gausman to a one-year, $9 million deal at the Winter Meetings last offseason, betting they could help the former first-rounder turn a corner. Gausman, in 10 starts and two relief appearances, was everything the staff hoped for. 

Download and subscribe to the Balk Talk Podcast

He had a 3.62 ERA and 3.09 FIP, and his rate of 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings was the highest of his career. Gausman limited homers and walks, and by the end of the year he was a clear choice to lead the postseason rotation had the Giants gotten that far. There are good reasons, too, to think that the 2019 season was just the beginning of a breakout for Gausman, who took on a leadership role with some younger pitchers. 

Gausman basically has a two-pitch mix, but they're two very intriguing pitches. His fastball topped out at 99 mph and averaged 95.1, the kind of consistent velocity the Giants haven't seen from a starter since Tim Lincecum was atop their rotation. Gausman complemented that pitch with a splitter that was one of the more effective pitches in the big leagues. Opposing batters hit just .106 against the off-speed pitch and Gausman used it to pile up 46 of his 79 strikeouts. 

RELATED: Giants could see a lot of D-Rod next season in NL West

Gausman turns 30 years old in January, and with the splitter and ability to hold elite velocity deep into starts, he has the look of someone who is finally putting it all together. He picked the perfect time to have a strong season, capitalizing on the one-year audition at a pitchers' park and turning himself into one of the better options on the market at a time when plenty of teams are searching for starting pitching. 

The Giants have been near the top of that list. They entered the offseason with just Johnny Cueto and Logan Webb locked into their rotation, and neither had a strong year in 2020. The Giants expect to get Tyler Beede back at some point early next season and Tyler Anderson is arbitration-eligible, but the front office still had at least two holes to fill in the rotation, and realistically needed to head into spring training with three more starters in addition to the ones already under team control.

Keeping Gausman in-house is a huge first step toward putting together a competitive rotation in 2021 and potentially beyond.