Kevin Gausman
(Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press)

Kevin Gausman Gets Paid with Toronto

On November 28th, Free Agent RHP Kevin Gausman signed a 5-year, $110 million contract to play for the Toronto Blue Jays. Jeff Passan was first on the news at the time. He joins a Blue Jays rotation that features Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alek Manoah, and Jose Berrios, who recently signed a 7-year extension with Toronto.

The Blue Jays are trying to take the next step. The America League East is going to somehow be more competitive next season than last, where every team not named the Baltimore Orioles won over 90 games.

Kevin Gausman, at the current moment, looks like a great signing to bolster the Blue Jays rotation. But are we forgetting who Kevin Gausman was before he was on the Giants?

Kevin Gausman of the 2010’s

Gausman started his career with the Baltimore Orioles. The first season he had over 150.0 innings pitched, his earned run average was 3.61. Pretty good. The subsequent year, with 186.2 innings pitched, it soared to a 4.68 era. In 2018 Baltimore shipped Gausman to Atlanta.

Gausman was atrocious in Atlanta. He had a 6.19 era through 16 starts for the Braves. His ground-ball rate dropped from 46% to 37% that year, and Atlanta eventually put him on waivers. This came not even a year after Atlanta traded for Gausman from Baltimore. You have to imagine for a team to give up on a player they traded for within a year shows how unconfident they are in improving his game. Gausman was put on waivers by Atlanta and claimed by Cincinnati the next day.

Following his appalling 2019 campaign, Kevin signed with The San Francisco Giants for one year and posted a 3.62 era in 59.2 innings. Nothing incredible, but enough for San Fran to re-sign him again.

Gausman Dominated in 2021, and it Got Him Paid

Kevin’s 2021 was the best in his career. He went 14-6 with a 2.81 era and 227 strikeouts in 192 winnings, leading the staff for the 107-win Giants. He earned his first All-Star Selection and finished sixth in Cy-Young voting. A lot of Gausman’s success came from utilizing his splitter more, and his sinker less. It’s no surprise he’s getting paid. There will always be a team willing to throw money at a player coming off one good year.

Nonetheless, I think the masses that are MLB fans are suddenly convinced Gausman has always been a good pitcher. Are we just forgetting his 9-year tight-rope act where he just couldn’t have a good stretch of starts? His inconsistency brought him to San Francisco who certainly rejuvenated his career, but he’s still a candidate for regression, especially after having such a year that Kevin had never seen until then.

San Fran Turned Dirt to Gold in 2021

I’m not saying Gausman didn’t deserve to get paid, I’m just saying it’s incredibly egregious he replicates his San Fran years in any of those five years on the contract. Also, we need to recognize San Fran as having one of if not the best pitching developments and coaching across the league. I mean, had anyone heard of Logan Webb before this season? The 25-year-old never had thrown over 54.1 innings in his first two seasons. In his third, he throws 148.1 and posts a 3.03 era, all while dominating in the playoffs.

Another example is LHP Alex Wood. Wood had a rough 2019 and 2020 campaign, where he only threw 35.2 innings for the Reds and a mere 12.2 in a homecoming attempt with the Dodgers. He was signed by San Francisco and instantly was back to his 2018 Dodger self. Throwing 138.2 innings for a 3.83 era, Wood had returned back to being the competitive pitcher he was with the Dodgers.

Toronto Wants to Win Now

The Giants have exceptional coaching, that’s no secret. Their ability to turn no-name guys into everyday players last season was a testament to that. While Gausman may have a good season in 2022, and 2023, there just is no way he is his 2021 self longer than that. This is what Toronto needed though after they didn’t want to re-sign the other candidate who won’t live up to their new huge deal: Robbie Ray.

Toronto is in win-now mode. After just missing the playoffs last year in a historically successful division, their offense that just crushed pitching needed a good rotation to complement them. However, I can’t help but still be in shock over Gausman getting paid so much. Just two years ago he could have been any team for free. There will always be a team waiting to pay a player after one good year, that’s for sure.

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