On Sunday, as MLB’s business world moved forward into the offseason, the San Francisco Giants offered starting pitcher Kevin Gausman a qualifying offer.  It’s a bit of a surprise in an offseason that is going to be unpredictable, and with hints already that teams are going to be conservative in spending after a 2020 of limited revenue thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A qualifying offer means that a team is offering a free agent who might leave the team a one-year deal worth $18.9 million dollars (which is the mean salary of the league’s 125 highest-paid players).  The player has the option of accepting it, and making a lot of money for one season, or declining it.  If the player declines it, the team he leaves get a draft pick in compensation, and the team he signs with will lose a draft pick and some of their international bonus signing money.

Gausman, 29, had a 3.62 ERA and a very impressive 79 strikeouts in 59.2 innings on 2020, and is likely to get interest across baseball.  Both he, and his 2020 teammate Drew Smyly, have indicated they are interested in returning.  And Andrew Baggarly of NBC Sports has indicated the Giants are interested in signing Gausman to a multi-year contract.

Every year, the number of players who get the qualifying offer is usually low, and is often limited to the top players in free agency.  For 2020, only six players got qualifying offers.  They are:

  • Trevor Bauer, SP, Reds
  • Kevin Gausman, SP, Giants
  • DJ LeMahieu, IF, Yankees
  • JT Realmuto, C, Phillies
  • George Springer, OF, Astros
  • Marcus Stroman, SP, Mets

If teams sign a free agent who turned down a qualifying offer, they will lose a pick and money, the exact details of which depend on the team’s spending and market size.  Specifically for the Giants, if they sign one of the other free agents with a QO, they will lose their second round draft pick in the 2021 and $500K from their international bonus pool for the 2021 signing period.

It’s been suggested that the Giants may be interested in the other pitchers, Bauer and Stroman, as well as Springer to fill their outfield.

While the Giants are pursuing Gausman to sign with them again, the qualifying offer will help, as other teams may not pursue him as hard because of the penalty they’d get for signing him.

In 2019, the Giants offered qualifying offers to free agents Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, both of whom left.  The Giants got two extra draft picks inbetween the second compensation round and third round of the 2020 draft.

The Giants also made some other roster moves:

The roster moves are the start of preparing for the Winter Meetings, when the Rule 5 draft will occur, and the Giants will need to have room to protect their prospects, or to potentially draft a new player onto their 40-man roster.