Gausman among options for qualifying offer

October 30th, 2020

One of the first orders of business for the Giants this offseason will be to decide whether to extend qualifying offers to four pitchers who became free agents earlier this week: , , and .

San Francisco will have until Sunday at 2 p.m. PT to tender qualifying offers, a one-year contract worth $18.9 million, the mean salary of MLB’s 125 highest-paid players. Players who receive a qualifying offer have 10 days to accept or reject the deal. If a player declines a qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, the Giants will receive Draft pick compensation.

In 2019, the Giants tendered qualifying offers to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, who both turned them down before signing multi-year deals with the D-backs and Braves, respectively. With their two compensation picks, the Giants selected left-hander Nick Swiney and shortstop Jimmy Glowenke in the 2020 MLB Draft.

Unlike last year, San Francisco doesn’t have any obvious qualifying-offer candidates, though Gausman could merit consideration. The 29-year-old right-hander emerged as the club’s most dominant starter in 2020, logging a 3.62 ERA, a 3.09 FIP and a 1.11 WHIP while averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and the Giants have holes in their rotation that will need to be filled this offseason.

Gausman has expressed a desire to remain in San Francisco, and if the Giants choose to extend him a qualifying offer, odds are he’d accept and return to help anchor the pitching staff in 2021. But it would probably be risky for the Giants to lock in an $18.9 million commitment and potentially limit their financial flexibility during an offseason that could be marked by austerity following the revenue losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Giants have already been forced to institute some cost-saving measures, eliminating roughly 10 percent of their 500 full-time positions, with reductions scattered across the business and baseball-operations departments.

Farhan Zaidi has spent modestly since taking over as the Giants’ president of baseball operations in November 2018 -- Gausman’s one-year, $9 million deal represented the largest guarantee given to a free agent last offseason -- so he’s unlikely to veer from that approach amid the current climate. Zaidi has said that San Francisco is interested in keeping Gausman, but he might feel more comfortable allowing the right-hander to hit free agency and letting the market dictate his value.

Even if they opt not to extend a qualifying offer to Gausman, the Giants could still have an edge over his other potential suitors this offseason. After his final start of the regular season, Gausman said a big draw for him would be the opportunity to work with veteran catcher Buster Posey, who elected to not play in 2020.

"I would love to come back. I think I've made it pretty open that I feel good here," Gausman said in September. "I really like this club. I really like the team, and more than anything, I really like the guys. I think the staples that we have in our lineup, the experience that they bring every day -- a big part of that, a guy that's not here, is Buster.

"Hopefully, he's going to be back here next year. He was a big reason why I decided to sign here. Coming back and knowing that he's going to be here next year definitely adds another element to it. We'll see what happens."