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Free-agent righty Kevin Gausman has until 5pm ET today to decide whether he plans to accept the Giants’ $18.9MM qualifying offer or reject it in favor of fully testing free agency. While Marcus Stroman’s decision to accept the Mets’ QO led to natural speculation that Gausman would take the same route — both are represented by agent Brodie Scoffield — Gausman isn’t a lock to do so. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Gausman has already received multi-year offers and is weighing those against the QO. The Giants are among the teaams to have made a multi-year offer, Rosenthal adds.

It stands to reason that any multi-year offers for Gausman check in south of the QO’s average annual value, but historically speaking, free agents have been willing to sacrifice some AAV in order to secure a larger overall guarantee. If Gausman were to receive three-year offers in the $13-15MM range, for instance, that could certainly prompt him to forgo the heftier one-year payday.

The alternative, of course, is to take that $18.9MM sum, hope to bolster his stock with another strong year and return to free agency next winter without the burden of a qualifying offer; players can only receive one qualifying offer in their career, under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement.

It should be emphasized that Gausman needn’t make a final decision on his contract today. All he’s required to do by this afternoon is simply accept or reject the qualifying offer. He could still take the coming days, weeks or even months to explore the market in hopes of securing a larger multi-year offer than the ones he has already received. The fact that Stroman is no longer on the market is surely a notable factor. Gausman was already among the market’s more appealing free-agent starters, and one of the names alongside him in the second tier (behind Trevor Bauer) is now off the board.

Bauer is in a class of his own this winter, but Gausman is arguably the best remaining option after him. Masahiro Tanaka and Jake Odorizzi join him as solid mid-rotation options, and the market also features several high-ceiling veterans looking to rebound from injury-marred campaigns (e.g. Corey Kluber, James Paxton). Charlie Morton could be deemed the second-best arm on the market, but he’s limiting himself geographically and is expected to command a short-term deal given his age.

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