Cincinnati Reds: Kevin Gausman should agree to a deal before deadline

MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 28: Kevin Gausman #46 of the Cincinnati Reds delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 28, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 28: Kevin Gausman #46 of the Cincinnati Reds delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 28, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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With the non-tender deadline slated for tonight at 8 PM, both the Cincinnati Reds and Kevin Gausman might be best-served to work out a contract extension.

We haven’t seen much from the Cincinnati Reds this offseason in terms of free agent signings, contract extensions, or trades, but maybe that starts today. Kevin Gausman, projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make more than $10M next season via arbitration, is sure to be non-tendered by the Reds unless the two sides come to an agreement.

Gausman was picked up by the Reds midway through the 2019 season after falling on his face as a starter in Atlanta. Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, had success earlier in his career with the Baltimore Orioles, and put together a solid end to his 2018 season following a deadline deal that saw Gausman shipped to the Braves.

However, after going 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 games for Atlanta in 2018, the right-hander struggled out of the gates, going 3-7 in 16 starts and put up a 6.19 ERA. Gausman was waived by the Braves and picked up by the Reds on August 5th. The former first-rounder was moved to the Reds bullpen rather than the starting rotation and put up some solid numbers in relief.

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Gausman went 0-2 in 20.1 innings of work with out of the bullpen and also saw a spot start towards the end of the season. In 14 games as a reliever, Gausman owned a 3.10 ERA, struck out 27 batters and walked just five.

Despite the solid production the Reds saw from Kevin Gausman over the final two months of the season, there’s no way the team can pay $10M-plus for a relief pitcher who’s not a closer. However, might Cincinnati hedge their bets, expecting Gausman to produce at that same level next season and offer him a contract extension in advance of tonight’s non-tender deadline?

What if the Reds took the arbitration estimate and stretched it out over two seasons? Is a two-year/$10M contract a good deal for both sides? It depends on what Gausman thinks he can get on the open market and if he sees himself as a starter or a reliever.

The market for starters with Gausman’s history might offer him more than what the Reds would be willing to give him as a reliever. With the likes of Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani occupying four of the five starting spots next season, Gausman’s chances of cracking the Reds rotation is slim, though he could be in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation.

In all reality though, outside of perhaps a spot-start, Gausman’s future in the Queen City is likely in the bullpen. His two pitch repertoire of fastball and split-fingered fastball plays well out of the bullpen and he could add a reliable arm capable of going more than just a few batters.

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If the Cincinnati Reds do not reach a contract agreement with Kevin Gausman before 8 PM this evening, there’s a 99.9% chance that he’ll no longer be on the 40-man roster. Here’s hoping the Reds and Gausman figure out a deal before the non-tender deadline.