Kevin Gausman is unlikely to be retained through arbitration, but the Cincinnati Reds could retain his services with a one-year contract.
When it comes to next year’s starting rotation, the Cincinnati Reds have four of their five spots on lock down. The names Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani can be etched in stone. The fifth starter, however, is a bit of a mystery. Kevin Gausman may be the Reds best option.
Gausman is entering his final year of arbitration, and it seems ludicrous for the Reds to pay what it would likely cost. Gausman is estimated by MLB Trade Rumors to take home $10.6M through arbitration. That figure is a bit high, and it’s very likely that the Reds non-tender Gausman in the coming weeks.
Doing so, however, does not mean the Reds are unable or unwilling to bring the right-hander back on a more team-friendly contract. After all, no team would be willing to pay Gausman an eight-figure salary. Gausman went 3-9 with a 5.72 ERA. Gausman started 16 games for the Atlanta Braves before coming to Cincinnati where he worked all but one game out of the bullpen.
The Reds have a few players already under contract who could fill the role of fifth starter next season. Tyler Mahle locked down that spot for the majority of the 2019 season after garnering 23 starts the year before. Lucas Sims is also an option. That said, speaking to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale, Reds GM Nick Krall stressed the need for more pitching:
"“Every year, most teams use seven or eight starters. Most teams use 12 relievers that have significant time. You can’t overlook that. Having depth, guys with options, that’s really important for us. That stuff is just as important as getting a top-end guy sometimes.”"
Krall’s message should be music to the ears of Reds Country. While Reds starters, with the exception of Mahle, were relatively healthy last season, that isn’t always the case. Having Gausman as the team’s fifth starter with the likes of Mahle and/ or Sims waiting in the wings would give Cincinnati a lot of insurance.
While Sims has been solid is spurts, Mahle has left a lot to the imagination. Though he’s highly regarded by scouts and those within the organization, he’s yet to breakthrough and show that he can consistently perform on the biggest stage. Though Gausman had a down-year in 2019, he’s just one year removed from a 10-11 record with a 3.92 ERA.
Kevin Gausman fits the role of a fifth starter on a contending team. The minor leagues don’t seem like a viable option to produce a fifth starter this coming year, though Nick Lodolo may surprise some people. Tony Santillan has yet to play above the Double-A level and Vladimir Gutierrez took two steps back last year.
Obviously, the market will dictate what Gausman’s value is, and there are other free agents who may be more appealing. Having said that, Gausman was a reliable arm out of the bullpen last season, and could at least fill that role in 2020.