The Trevor Bauer Free Agency Saga is over. After a silly few months of tantalizing speculation and haphazard tweeting, Trevor Bauer is taking his talents to California, signing a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The deal’s details are still being released, but what we know now is this:
That’s a lot of cash for someone with a career ERA of almost 4.00, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
At the end of this whole messy situation are three big entities. The first is, of course, Bauer, and the final two are the teams left standing: the New York Mets and the defending World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. And while the dust begins to settle, it might be interesting to take a look at the biggest questions remaining to be answered for each of the involved parties. The free agent battle might be over, but the contract is just beginning.
The New York Mets: Did they miss out?
For the last few years, the New York Mets starting rotation has been lauded as elite in the offseason, and then proven to have significant holes by midseason. The “Curse of the Four Horsemen Commercial” is still felt to this day in Queens. But this season, the Mets seem to be pulling things together.
Obviously one of those spots will go to Noah Syndergaard after he returns from Tommy John rehab. In the fourth spot, Carlos Carrasco, the stellar (and underrated) addition to the Francisco Lindor trade, leaves just one final slot in the rotation.
After his very solid 2020 season, David Peterson would seem to be in line for that 5th starter designation. And yet the Mets went out and acquired Jordan Yamamoto and Joey Lucchesi, giving the rotation even more depth. The Mets have spot starters coming out of their ears, something that they haven’t had in quite some time.
And even after all of that depth, the Mets are still tied to rumors surrounding James Paxton and Jake Odorizzi. Adding one or both would be a fabulous addition to the Mets stable of studs.
So, did the Mets miss out on Trevor Bauer? No, not really. In fact, the $40 million offered to Bauer for 2021 can easily be put to use. How? By signing Odorizzi/Paxton, and acquiring Kris Bryant. It’s already gone to Albert Almora, Jr. who will provide a nice tandem with Brandon Nimmo in center.
If the Mets had signed Bauer, they would have solidified their rotation, sure. But they would have done so at the cost of other positions on the field where they do need help.
Did the Mets miss out on Trevor Bauer? No. They did not.
The Los Angeles Dodgers: Are they better than last year?
The Dodgers have won the 2021 MLB Offseason, making them back-to-back champions after trading for Mookie Betts prior to last season. Going back-to-back is something the Dodgers are also trying to do in the upcoming regular season, as they defend their World Series title. But, does spending $40 million dollars on Trevor Bauer, while still having some question marks in their lineup, help?
As for their rotation, Bauer joins a pitching staff that was easily one of, if not the best in the entire league during the shortened 2020 season. The question for the Dodgers, and their manager Dave Roberts, now becomes “how do you structure this rotation?”
Bauer fits into this rotation as a Zack Greinke type of #2 behind Clayton Kershaw. The one-two punch of Kershaw and Bauer is sure to make things difficult for the Dodgers opponents, but how does the back end of the rotation shake out?
Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May stepped up big in 2020, despite never pitching full seasons in the bigs. Walker Buehler will more than likely win a Cy Young in the next five years, and Julio Urias is still getting better every season.
The Dodgers rotation was already an embarrassment of riches before signing Trevor Bauer. With him in the rotation, they’re number 1 with a bullet.
Are the Los Angeles Dodgers better than last year? The rotation certainly is, but there are still some question marks in the lineup.
Trevor Bauer: Is he worth the money?
This is the question I have seen a lot of people trying to answer. It’s a matter of worth, value, and ability. And this will be what Trevor Bauer will be fighting against in 2021.
There’s no doubt that Bauer’s Cy Young season in 2020 was extraordinary. That’s a fact. You cannot fight it. His 1.73 ERA led the NL, as did his 0.795 WHIP, and his two complete-game shutouts. However, the fact that Trevor Bauer was virtually unhittable lives in his hits-per-9 innings, which sits at an MLB best 5.055, is nuts. Even AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber had a hits/9 of 5.353.
This award is his to lose, from the moment voting started. But the question of a repeat performance is what’s being posed. What Trevor Bauer did the Dodgers sign to a $100 million dollar deal?
Prior to the 2020 season, Bauer had only finished one season with an ERA under 4.00, which was his final full season with Cleveland. Compared to his 2020 season, the numbers look similar. There’s a serious jump in strikeouts and a solid decrease in hits/9. That’s good news for Dodgers fans, right?
It might be, but a closer look tells us the odds of a backslide are good, especially considering how 2019 went for Bauer. Before being sent to Cincinnati midseason, Bauer went 9-8 with a 3.79 ERA, and a 1.213 WHIP. While those numbers are great for a mid-rotation arm, they begin to look like a backslide. Why? They’re sandwiched between two outstanding seasons, the latter of which won Bauer a Cy Young.
On the flip side, if we are to look at Bauer’s 2020 season, sample size does come into play, but not in the way you might think.
When looking at Trevor Bauer’s career splits, you’ll notice that the newest Dodger pitcher has a penchant for beginning seasons hot. In the first month of the season, Bauer has held opposing hitters to a .201/.302/.336 slash line throughout his career. Even his first half vs. second half splits favor the beginning of the season.
So while we can all discuss whether or not a small sample size or a shortened season is the real reason Bauer won the NL Cy Young in 2020, that feels short-sighted. Bauer was the best pitcher in 2020, but that might have been helped by his love for hot starts and the fact that he pitched in against the anemic offenses in the Central divisions.
Adding more to the idea that Bauer likes to come in hot, is the notion that he was only going to sign a one year deal regardless of where he went. Even his deal with Los Angeles includes opt-outs after every year. Why?
Two reasons. First off, if Bauer can get his time in LA off to a hot start, he could turn that solid season into an opportunity to build on that momentum and sign another deal for even more money. It’s a business play, and it’s one that actually makes a lot of sense.
Or, it’s a way for him to duck out of town without having a large contract hanging over his head, should things go south. And that’s maybe the most important piece of this.
Trevor Bauer is outspoken both on the field and off. He’s gotten into beefs with hitters and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. However, the biggest issue with Bauer’s attitude might be his Twitter fingers and his history of harassing women online. All of that comes with the territory of signing Trevor Bauer, you can’t separate the man off the field from the man on the mound.
And because of that, he’s drawn the ire of fans across the league. Look at how Mets Twitter responded to narrowly losing out on signing him. The initial response wasn’t anger, but relief… then quickly followed by disgust. Trevor Bauer has to realize the pressure he’s put upon himself by putting together a LeBron style announcement. You know, the one he’s already apologized to Mets fans for.
That being said, Trevor Bauer now has to quite literally put his money where his mouth is.
Is Trevor Bauer worth the money? It’s unclear, but we’ll know soon enough.
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