Cincinnati Reds: Kevin Gausman in the mix for 2020 starting rotation

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 05: Kevin Gausman #45 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at SunTrust Park on April 05, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 05: Kevin Gausman #45 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at SunTrust Park on April 05, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Since joining the Cincinnati Reds, former first-round pick Kevin Gausman has been a solid addition to the bullpen. Could he be a starter in 2020?

I think we can all agree that three of the five spots in next year’s starting rotation, barring injury, have been claimed. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer are virtual locks to be part of next year’s pitching staff for the Cincinnati Reds. With Kevin Gausman‘s recent outing, he’s tossed his hat into the ring as a possible addition to the starting rotation.

Gausman went 2 innings in yesterday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals and didn’t allow a single hit. In fact, Gausman tossed an immaculate inning in the top of the ninth. Gausman sat down three consecutive batters on nine straight pitches, all of which were strikes. Yairo Munoz, Dexter Fowler and Tommy Edman were each sat down 1-2-3.

The 2019 season with the Atlanta Braves was one Gausman would just as soon forget. Before being picked up by the Reds, Gausman had gone 3-7 in 16 starts with last year’s AL East Champions. Gausman had pitched 80 innings, allowed 12 home runs and struck out 85 batters.

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Gausman had a 6.19 ERA, but a 4.21 FIP, meaning maybe Gausman was just the victim of some bad luck. Before this season, Gausman’s career ERA was 4.12. Though he had a losing record (44-54), don’t forget that he played his first six years in Baltimore.

Kevin Gausman has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a split-finger fastball that falls off the plate. Gausman’s third pitch is one you won’t see him use that often, but he had some success with this slider yesterday. Gausman spoke about how his stuff was working yesterday via

“My fastball was up and my split was down. That’s about it. I threw two sliders, both of them for strikes. One was taken for a strike, one with a swing and a miss. It was good. I felt pretty good.”

Gausman was an interesting pickup for Cincinnati. After being wildly ineffective for the Braves this season, he’s been a pleasant surprise for the Reds. Gausman has a 2.57 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 7 innings since coming to the Queen City. Gausman has worked exclusively out of the bullpen, but don’t be shocked if he gets a couple opportunities to start as the season winds down.

With the Cincinnati Reds sitting 7 games out of playoff contention, their window to make a run at the postseason is virtually closed. There are 39 games left in the season and a herculean effort will be needed if the Reds want to enter the fray competing for a spot in the postseason.

It wouldn’t be surprising, if the Reds are officially eliminated from the playoffs, for Gausman to make a couple starts over the final few weeks of the 2019 season. Gausman has been a starter throughout most of his career and it would behoove the Reds coaching staff and front office to see what the right-hander might be able to do if given the opportunity.

Gausman is arbitration eligible at the end of the season and will likely make upwards of $10M next season. While that may seem like a steep price for a pitcher who’s underperformed this season as a starter, Alex Wood would likely command even more than that.

Unless the Reds and Wood are able to work out a contract extension, keeping the southpaw on next year’s roster would probably cost in the neighborhood of $18M via a qualifying offer. Gausman’s $10M-plus seems like peanuts compared to what it may take to retain Wood.

Gausman and Wood aren’t the only options to join Castillo, Gray and Bauer in next year’s rotation. Anthony DeSclafani is arbitration eligible and would likely command a salary around $5M or so. Tyler Mahle, who’s been saddled with an injury lately is definitely in the mix and will not reach arbitration until 2021.

Lucas Sims, who also isn’t close to reaching arbitration, is another candidate to be part of the 2020 starting rotation for the Cincinnati Reds. Sims has started two games this season with varying results. Like Gausman, he’s been used primarily out of the bullpen lately.

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Personally, I’d steer clear of Kevin Gausman as an option for next year’s starting rotation. The Reds have cheaper options that are likely to give the team similar results. However, if Gausman continues to pitch like he did on Sunday, the Reds would be foolish not to at least entertain the idea of starting Gausman down the stretch.