It took some time, money, and convincing, but the Toronto Blue Jays got their top-of-rotation arm.
After signing a five-year, $110 million deal with the Blue Jays earlier this week, Toronto formalized the partnership and introduced Kevin Gausman on Wednesday. Here are four takeaways from the pitcher's press conference:
1. Toronto and the Blue Jays Got Good Reviews
Toronto reviews from former teammates and praise of pitching coach Pete Walker were two of the biggest factors in Gausman's desire to become a Blue Jay, the starter repeatedly noted Wednesday.
He said his former Orioles’ teammate Steve Pearce was upset when the Blue Jays traded him back in 2018 because he “loved his time so much in Toronto,” and former Jay reliever Dominic Leone added to the “outstanding reputation” of the organization.
“They weren’t the only two people [I spoke to]," Gausman said," but those two guys put the nail in the coffin and reaffirmed everything I felt, saw, and heard.”
2. Gausman to Wear 34 In Honor of Halladay
Growing up, Kevin Gausman made sure to watch every Roy Halladay start he could. Halladay is the best MLB player to come from Gausman’s home state, Colorado, and Gausman now joins the Hall of Famer's former team.
Gausman lauded Halladay’s ability to shape pitches and said he’s tried to be the same “even-keeled” person as Doc in the big leagues. In honor of Halladay, Gausman will be wearing the number 34 as a Blue Jay (Halladay’s 32 with Toronto is retired).
“Any time that I put on that jersey I really think about him,” Gausman said.
3. Durability and Dependability
Dependable and reliable were the first two words Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins used to describe Gausman at the top of Wednesday’s press conference.
“That is what Kevin’s been," Atkins said. "And that’s something that’s exceptionally attractive to us.”
In nine MLB seasons, Gausman has made 197 starts. He's twice led baseball in games started and has pitched over 175 innings four times. Toronto's decision-makers clearly value durability in starting pitchers, as it was one of Atkins' main descriptors of José Berríos just a week ago.
With one of baseball's best offenses in 2021, competent starters who can reliably take the ball should give the Jays an opportunity to win. In Gausman, Atkins was confident they've added someone who can do that.
4. Gausman Knows Blue Jays Fans Well
Gausman is familiar with the American League East, the Blue Jays, and the city of Toronto.
Rogers Centre is the stadium Gausman has pitched the fourth-most in, behind Baltimore's Camden Yards, San Francisco's AT&T Park, and SunTrust in Atlanta. He owns a career 3.83 ERA at Rogers Centre, but he's been there for some tough moments too. Gausman was a member of the 2016 Baltimore Orioles team that fell to the Blue Jays in an extra-inning wild-card game back in 2016.
“I’ve been a huge fan of the fanbase from afar,” Gausman said. “Unfortunately been a part of some good moments for them, not necessarily for me at the time."
Despite the sour memory, Gausman's familiarity with Toronto, and his experience in the packed playoff crowds, showed him the city's interest in baseball—a "vibrant city," Gausman called it, that really gets behind their team.