The Mariners and Angels are both showing some degree of interest in free-agent righty Kevin Gausman, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Gausman has also been tied to the Blue Jays and the incumbent Giants, who have been active in the rotation market this week.
Either Seattle or Anaheim would make a sensible destination for Gausman, who enjoyed a breakout showing in San Francisco over the past two seasons. Gausman, who signed a $9MM deal with the 2020 Giants and returned after accepting an $18.9MM qualifying offer, pitched to an even 3.00 ERA with a 30% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate in 251 innings with San Francisco from 2020-21. Both the Mariners and Angels are known to be on the hunt for rotation upgrades, and Seattle in particular has the payroll space to accommodate any free agent on the market.
The Mariners have just four players on guaranteed contracts for the 2022 season and a fairly light arbitration class beyond slugging right fielder Mitch Haniger. All in all, Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez projects a payroll in the $59MM range — more than $100MM lower than the franchise’s previous record-high. Seattle is also in the market for a big right-handed bat in the infield, but the only locks in the rotation at present are Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert, so some rotation help is sure to be added as well. The biggest question for the Mariners is whether they’ll take the plunge on a pair of marquee free agents (e.g. Gausman and a big-name infielder) or stick to one free agent and make their other big addition on the trade market.
Down the coast in Orange County, the Angels have already made one significant splash in the rotation, adding Noah Syndergaard on a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $21MM. Syndergaard added another high-upside arm to a rotation mix including reigning MVP Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Jaime Barria and top prospect Reid Detmers — but the Angels could certainly use a more established and durable arm like Gausman to help stabilize the top end of the rotation.
The question for the Angels is whether they’ll buck a longstanding trend of eschewing long-term deals for pitchers. As recently explored at MLBTR, the last free-agent starting pitcher to whom the Angels committed multiple years was Joe Blanton way back in 2012. The Halos’ recent signing of Aaron Loup was just the third pitcher — free agent or otherwise — the Angels have signed to a multi-year deal since that Blanton signing (the others being a two-year extension for closer Huston Street and a two-year deal buying out Ohtani’s first two arbitration seasons).
The last pitcher the Angels signed for three or more years was C.J. Wilson (five years, $77.5MM) a decade and three general managers ago. The Angels have pursued other free-agent starters on multi-year deals in that time (and reportedly made an offer to Steven Matz this week), but the team has never been comfortable with the top-end prices required to sign those pitchers at the end of the day.
Gausman, now free of a qualifying offer and having repeated his 2020 K-BB% gains over the course of a full season, is likely in position to command a free-agent deal of at least five seasons in length. Gausman ranked fifth on MLBTR’s Top 50 free agent rankings at the beginning of the offseason.