At the end of last season, Kevin Gausman made it clear that he wanted to stay with the Giants. He got his wish in November, when he accepted a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to return for his second season in San Francisco.
Gausman reportedly had multi-year offers from other clubs, but after pitching for four teams over the previous three seasons, he preferred continuity and the ability to remain in an environment that helped him thrive in 2020.
“It was tough, but ultimately it came down to being comfortable with where I was going,” Gausman said Thursday during a Zoom call with reporters. “I've kind of hopped around the last couple of years. I felt like I made some good relationships and then had to leave. I just know what I'm getting myself into, know what to expect. I talked from day one just about how great everybody treated me and my family here. That definitely was part of it, but I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far. I really liked all my teammates, so honestly, it was a pretty easy decision.”
Gausman initially joined the Giants on a one-year, $9 million deal last offseason and secured a significant bump in pay after emerging as the club’s most dominant starter over the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Wielding a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and an elite splitter, Gausman logged a 3.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts over 59 2/3 innings.
Gausman said the focus for him this spring will be to continue to minimize hits and refine his slider, which he believes will help him sustain his success in 2021. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him earn the nod for the Giants’ regular-season opener in Seattle on April 1, though manager Gabe Kapler said he doesn’t plan to name an Opening Day starter until later this spring.
Gausman had openly expressed his desire to stay with the Giants dating back to the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline, and the interest proved mutual. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has acknowledged that the Giants had conversations with Gausman about a potential multi-year extension before he accepted the qualifying offer, though Zaidi said those talks had been shelved to address more pressing offseason matters. It’s possible that negotiations could restart this spring, which has traditionally been extension season around baseball.
“Yeah, I would love to be here long term, but that's not really up to me,” Gausman said. “I think if I just go out and pitch well, the cards will fall where they will.”
Extending Gausman would make sense for the Giants, who currently have no pieces locked into their starting rotation beyond this season. Johnny Cueto is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, and the Giants are likely to pay him a $5 million buyout rather than pick up his $22 million club option for 2022. Gausman and newcomers Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Aaron Sanchez each signed one-year deals, meaning the Giants’ projected top five starters could all be eligible for free agency next offseason.
The Giants remain high on Logan Webb and could get their first looks at pitching prospects Sean Hjelle and Tristan Beck this season, but making a long-term commitment to Gausman would help stabilize the rotation for the near future.
For now, though, the focus remains on 2021. Gausman is a former Reds teammate of DeSclafani and Wood and said he thinks the Giants added “not just quality pitchers, but quality guys, too.” He’s also looking forward to working with catcher Buster Posey, who is back after electing to sit out last season due to COVID-19 concerns.
“He's probably caught every pitch you could possibly imagine,” Gausman said. “He knows these hitters way more than I do. When you have a veteran catcher, they're thinking outside the box, and they're going to pitch to your strengths, but they're also going to kind of give you things in the middle of the game that you might not even be thinking about. ... That's what everybody talks about. His game-calling abilities, his ability to be able to read hitters and read their swings. I think that takes him to the next level. I think he only makes every pitcher on our staff better, having him back there.”