TORONTO (AP) — In each of the past two offseasons, pitcher Kevin Gausman spurned free agent advances from the Toronto Blue Jays and general manager Ross Atkins.
When Atkins called again this winter, Gausman couldn’t say no any longer.
Gausman and the Blue Jays finalized a $110 million, five-year contract Wednesday that fills an opening at the front of Toronto's rotation.
“I had a feeling Ross was going to call again,” Gausman said during his introductory news conference online. “We almost reached a deal two years ago and even last year, too.”
“The closer it got to decision time it was like, ’All right, this is the team that I think I’m going to win the most with,’” he explained. “I felt like out of all the other teams that were involved, this was the best place to go and win now and win in the future. After talking to Ross, he made it apparent that they were going to do everything they could to put a winning product on the field, and also be in the player’s corner.”
Atkins was equally excited to have finally landed a long-sought target.
“His reputation is as strong as they come in baseball,” Atkins said. “The dependability, the reliability, has always resonated.”
Gausman gets $21 million in each of the next two seasons, $22 million in 2024 and $23 million in each of the final two years.
Gausman, who turns 31 next month, was 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 192 innings for San Francisco last season. He made the All-Star team for the first time and helped the Giants lead the majors with 107 wins.
When San Francisco lost in the Division Series to the Dodgers, Gausman said it “left a bad taste in my mouth.” Getting another crack at October success was uppermost in his mind as he entered free agency.
“Honestly, one of the biggest factors for me at this point in my career is I want to go somewhere and win,” Gausman said. “I want to win a championship, that’s really my goal now.”
The right-hander has a 64-72 record and 4.02 ERA in his nine-year career with Baltimore, Atlanta and the Giants.
While a looming lockout is expected to shut down further free agent signings for the foreseeable future, Gausman said potential labor strife didn’t figure into his thinking about signing now.
“To be honest, it really wasn’t much of a thought for me,” he said. “It was just kind of a matter of when stuff would happen. Talking with my wife, it was like, ‘Hey, we might not sign somewhere until February. We’ve just got to prepare ourselves for that.’ And we really were prepared for that."
Gausman is from Colorado, the same home state as former Blue Jays Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. While Toronto has retired the No. 32 jersey worn by the late Hall of Famer, Gausman will wear 34, the number Halladay wore in Philadelphia.
“I grew up a huge Roy Halladay fan,” Gausman said. “Me and my dad watched his starts when we talked about pitching. His ability to make a ball move was incredible. I was always a huge fan of him, not just on the field, but the way that he carried himself, kind of that even keel. That’s what I’ve always tried to be, at least in my big league career.”
Toronto went 91-71 this year but missed the playoffs. Since the end of the season, AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray and fellow left-hander Steven Matz have become free agents and left the Blue Jays.
Drafted fourth overall by the Orioles in 2012, Gausman made his major league debut in Toronto in May 2013.
“I just remember being so nervous the whole day,” Gausman recalled. “My locker was right next to the TV and the TV was just talking about me the whole time, and so it made me even more nervous.”
Gausman took the loss that night, allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings.
“I think I did everything you possibly could do in that one game,” he said. “I even think I balked. I hit a guy, walked a guy, struck out a guy, gave up a home run.”
Gausman was still with the Orioles when Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion hit a game-winning home run in extra innings to beat Baltimore in the 2016 AL wild-card game.
“I’ve seen Rogers Centre at full capacity and, when the team is electric, the entire city is vibrant,” Gausman said.
The Blue Jays on Wednesday also confirmed the signing of right-hander Yimi Garcia to an $11 million, two-year contract. A seven-year veteran, Garcia went 4-9 with a 4.21 ERA and 15 saves in 18 opportunities with Miami and Houston last season.
Garcia gets a $1 million signing bonus, $4 million in 2022 and $5 million in 2023. The Blue Jays have a $5 million option for 2024 with a $1 million buyout, and the salar would become guaranteed at $6 million if he pitches 110 innings and appears in 110 games in 2022 and '23 combined or has 60 innings or games in 2023.
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