In 2020, only 6 MLB Free Agents received qualifying offers from the teams they spent 2020 with. That’s surprising for a number of reasons. In the past, we’ve seen teams hand out QOs to the likes of Alex Cobb, Neil Walker and Jeremy Hellickson, players that have since fallen far short of the $16+ million benchmark.
This year’s crop of qualified recipients are pretty much what you’d expect. Georger Springer, Trevor Bauer, JT Realmuto and DJ LeMahieu are all speculated to be rejecting their offers and testing the free agency market. The other two names on the QO list, the decision is a bit more interesting.
To put it bluntly, Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman are the only two players who should be considering accepting their offers.
Kevin Gausman hasn’t quite lived up to his potential as the 4th overall selection in the 2012 MLB Draft. Here’s a list of players selected after Gausman:
- Jose Berrios
- Corey Seager
- Lucas Giolito
- Joey Gallo
- Lance McCullers
- Matt Olson
- Jesse Winker
- Edwin Diaz
- Marcus Stroman
In his time in the MLB, Gausman has been about as average a starter as you could find. In his eight-year career, Gausman’s stat line reads like an analysts blank slate for a backend starter. His 4.26 ERA, 1.329 WHIP, 8.5 k/9, and 9.3 h/9, amount to a career ERA+ of 100, the definition of league average. There’s just nothing insanely exciting about Kevin Gausman.
But the Giants just offered him a one-year, $18.9 million dollar deal… so what are we missing?
This is actually a very calculated move by San Francisco and it’s incredible. The Giants rotation is not what it once was. After once touting the most expensive rotation in the league, the Giants are now left with the shambles of those contracts. Madison Bumgarner left in free agency last year, Matt Cain retired, and Matt Moore was shipped out of town in 2017.
The only two pieces of that rotation still around in 2020 were Jonny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, who was released at the end of this season. With Cueto as the elder statesman, but not the number one, the Giants offer moves Gausman into the first slot. The Giants are giving Gausman the opportunity that he never to anywhere else, he can be the Ace of this staff, even if it’s only for a season.
That’s huge, but coming off his best season in a long time, it’s possible that the Giants putting their faith and trust into him early on can jump start those results in the offseason. And what’s the downside for a team in the middle of a rebuild? It’s a gamble, and if it pays off, you can deal Gausman at the deadline for prospects.
It’s a Win-Win. Gausman has to take this deal.
Marcus Stroman’s situation is a bit trickier.
After coming up through the Toronto Blue Jays system, Marcus Stroman was traded to the Mets at the 2019 trade deadline. In 11 starts for New York, Stroman went 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.475 WHIP. Those numbers are… fine. They’re fine, a little disappointing, but fine, but that’s been the swing in Stroman’s career.
When Marcus Stroman is hot, he’s the guy you want on the mound. In 2017 for Toronto, Stroman posted his best season, one that found him 8th in Cy Young voting. Over his 33 starts for the Jays, the 27-year-old Stro posted a 13-9 record, 3.09 ERA, 1.308 WHIP, amounting to a 145 ERA+, the highest of his career. Those numbers are great, but that success wasn’t consistent.
A turbulent 2018 most certainly didn’t go the way anyone hoped it would for the kid from Long Island, as injuries and blisters hampered a repeat of the season before. In only 19 starts, Stroman underperformed his previous year, by a wide margin. A 5.54 ERA, a 1.475 WHIP and 77 ERA+ weren’t what anyone hoped for, and as the Blue Jays shifted to a rebuilding phase, Stroman looked to be a big piece moving forward.
But as 2019 got underway, instead of being a big piece within the organization, Stroman was a big piece on the trade market. Sure his 6-11 record with a hapless Blue Jays team didn’t turn heads, his 2.96 ERA and 1.227 WHIP did. The Mets certainly liked what they say and made their move.
So the Mets got 11 starts from Stroman before he opted out of the 2020 season, and have since offered a qualifying offer. One that, in my personal opinion, he should take.
If Marcus Stroman were to walk in and head into free agency, what kind of contract would he get? Well, if we look at similar pitchers like Zack Wheeler and Dallas Keuchel, he’s looking to get a contract somewhere between $18 million and $23 million. That’s the range.
Now, the QO offered by the Mets is on the lower side, but it’s pretty solid considering that both Keuchel and Wheeler came into their contract negotiations with something Stroman doesn’t: consistency.
Both Keuchel and Wheeler got their deals after two consecutive seasons with ERAs under 4.00 and both pitchers surpassing the 100 ERA+ mark, that’s league average. Stroman doesn’t quite have that consistency in his back pocket. If he gets the contract he’s looking for in free agency, will the yearly average be more than the QO from the Mets? It’s tough to tell.
However, you spend one season in Queens as a part of a dominant rotation, doing your own thing, proving you can hang with the likes of Syndergaard and deGrom and that you’re not a fluctuation risk, that’s how you maximize your free agent potency. That’s how you get the biggest deal you can.
If I’m Marcus Stroman, I take the QO, no doubt. However, it’s a tough decision thanks in part to the uncertainty within his performance over the years.
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