As far as winter hot stove activity goes, rarely have we seen so much action take place before the annual Winter Meetings as we have this year. Most of the big free agents are still on the board, but plenty of clubs uncharacteristically have already snatched up dozens of serviceable players. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have stayed very much quiet, at least in terms of new player acquisitions.
Just because Andrew Friedman and his crew haven’t brought in anyone new doesn’t mean they have not been active. The Dodgers have been linked to some of the biggest available free agents on the market, including (but not limited to) players like Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and Josh Donaldson.
On Tuesday, just as the smoke was clearing from all the reports about which arbitration-eligible players were tendered contracts for 2020, news came that the Dodgers were chatting with free agent pitcher Kevin Gausman. While it’s not surprising news, it is indeed a bit ironic that the lanky right-hander was grouped with such an elite class of free agents.
Nevertheless, Gausman may be just the type of player that Friedman may target. Some outlets projected Gausman to score more than $10 million through arbitration this winter, which is probably the main reason why the Reds decided not to tender him a contract.
For those who don’t remember, Gausman was initially drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round back in 2010. However, he decided to attend LSU and came out two years later when the Orioles chose him as the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Cincinnati claimed Gausman off waivers from Atlanta last August and let him work exclusively out of the bullpen down the stretch of the season. For the entirety of 2019, the Colorado native made 31 appearances—17 of which were starts—tallying a 3-9 record with a 5.72 ERA, a 3.98 FIP and 114 punchouts over 102-1/3 innings of work.
As a starter last season, the 28-year-old Gausman threw an even 82 innings and registered a 6.37 ERA. As a reliever, though, he tossed just over 20 innings and produced a much more reasonable 3.10 ERA. Lifetime, he has started 154 games and tallied a 4.34 ERA and a 1.357 WHIP. Career-wise as a reliever, he has made 37 appearances and posted a 3.58 ERA and a 1.139 WHIP. Conceivably, these are some figures that could prompt Friedman’s interest, especially if Gausman is willing to latch on as a middl(ish) reliever as his career moves forward.
Gausman earned $9.3 million last year, but the fact that he’s currently a free agent throws all of his arbitration projections out the window.
During his early years in the bigs, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder was known to crank his four-seamer up to near triple digits, but his velocity has dropped off in recent seasons.
Here’s a chart of his repertoire and his velocities as provided by Brooks Baseball:
Personally, with Gausman, I don’t see much of an upgrade over any of the main arms in the Dodgers’ existing bullpen, especially if guys like Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Caleb Ferguson might be throwing in relief right out of spring camp. More than anything else, I don’t see any overwhelming value, specifically if he’s going to be commanding a salary in the $7-9 million range as a reliever.
Regardless, we all know how creative Friedman can be at times, especially if Gausman doesn’t draw much interest around the league before camp opens in February.