Blue Jays sign breakout starter Kevin Gausman to 5-year deal, per report

The ascendant starting pitcher Kevin Gausman is headed north of the border. The Toronto Blue Jays are signing him to a 5-year, $110 million deal, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.

At age 30, Gausman completed his transformation into an ace with the San Francisco Giants — firing 192 innings with a 2.81 ERA that was 45 percent better than the adjusted league average and finishing sixth in NL Cy Young balloting.

A promising but ultimately middling starter with the Baltimore Orioles for most of his career, Gausman has been on a steep upward trajectory ever since he landed in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen during an itinerant period in 2019. By leaning into a devastating splitter that plays off his four-seam fastball, Gausman leapt toward the top of the strikeout leaderboards and then took that approach to the rotation with sterling results across two seasons with the Giants.

He spent 2021 as the leader of a shockingly good Giants pitching staff that consisted mostly of hurlers on one-year deals. He had remained in San Francisco for 2021 by accepting the qualifying offer after a promising first run with the team in 2020. The Giants have quickly brought most of that group back this offseason to complement emerging ace Logan Webb. The right-handed Anthony DeSclafani signed a three-year, $36 million deal, while southpaw Alex Wood is reportedly close to a two-year pact.

But Gausman will be headed to Toronto to try and help a new team conquer its difficult division. The Blue Jays boasted two MVP contenders in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien in 2021, plus young stars like Bo Bichette, but fell just short of the playoffs.

On the same night Semien reportedly agreed to join the Texas Rangers, the Blue Jays struck a big deal to bolster their starting rotation.

Gausman’s befuddling splitter and terrific strikeout numbers — his 29.3% strikeout rate ranked eighth among all qualified starters in 2021 — made him one of the most appealing pitchers on the market despite a relatively short track record of excellence.

Toronto already added José Berríos in a trade over the summer and recently signed him to a contract extension. Gausman will now join a three-headed monster atop the rotation with Berríos and Hyun Jin Ryu as the Blue Jays attempt to topple the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

He's the second major free agent splash in two years for the Blue Jays, who last offseason gave star outfielder and World Series hero George Springer a six-year, $150 million contract as they look to return to October.

Gausman will make $22 million a year. That met industry expectations in a crowded market, but could still pale in comparison to what more proven free agent ace Max Scherzer lands. Speculation is swirling around the three-time Cy Young winner as baseball hurtles toward a potential lockout on Dec. 2.