Full disclosure: I love watching Trevor Bauer pitch. I don’t think there is another starter out there that I will actively make the effort to tune into his outings. He’s not the best, but he is compelling.
I love that he battles (and frequently fails) to control his emotions. I love that he wears his heart on his sleeve. I love the repertoire that changes each season. I love his hatred of giving in to the batter.
I love that he can be the best pitcher on the planet in one game, and can give up three homers to one batter in another – looking at you Max Kepler.
I loved the World Series theatre of him trying to pitch with blood dripping from his wound. The modern-day Curt Schilling … just without the rings.
I used to love the Kluber/Bauer dynamic. The calm, unruffable adult driving the rotation, and the stroppy teenager in the back moaning “are we there yet?”
You get it, I pretty much love Trevor Bauer (the pitcher).
I’m not so keen on the off-the-field Trevor Bauer. I don’t know if the pantomime villain/social media celebrity/faux outrage instigator is just an act. It certainly raises his profile above other 20-WAR pitchers like Kyle Hendricks or Sonny Gray.
The Guardian, not known for publishing a wealth of MLB articles, asked:
Why is Trevor Bauer MLB’s most hated man?
Presumably, he enjoys notoriety. Baseball’s equivalent to Piers Morgan or that failed-actor bloke who has turned himself into an anti-science/pro-virus mouthpiece.
The accusations of harassment and bullying are widely reported, and in a world where MLB is finally catching up to the rest of society by attempting to rid itself of toxic cultures, Bauer seems very last decade.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame him for struggling to understand modern life issues like equality or non-binary. These are tough concepts to grasp, especially for those from more sheltered environments.
His disputes of climate change don’t do him any favours either, and it certainly undermines his claim as “one of the most scientific baseball players.”
The 30-year-old’s exceptional performances in the shortened games/shortened season of 2020 have created a situation where Bauer is the most important free agent pitcher. Every team would benefit from his talent, but it appears that not every team wants the baggage that comes along with him.
Originally, Bauer was keen to maximise his value by signing high-value, one-year deals, and (after the Cy Young success) it then seemed like his focus switched to wanting a longer-term contract. It now appears his stance has softened, with agent Rachel Luba pointing out that her client will look at any deal, long or short.
So which team will take the plunge to secure the services of the former first-rounder?
CINCINNATI REDS: Bauer made 21 starts, allowing 54 earned runs (including 21 home runs), with an exceptional strikeout rate of 12.3 SO/9. Reds fans witnessed the dreadful 6.39 ERA stint in 2019, and his 73 innings of brilliance in 2020. It’s safe to say that Cincinnati would rather have the compensatory pick than pay the money needed to re-sign him.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS: It’s clear that Bauer needs the Dodgers more than the Dodgers need Bauer. Especially when you consider that Dustin May (Mr 2.57 ERA) is their No.5 pitcher. The Dodgers don’t like signing pitchers to long-term deals – remember, they let Zack Greinke walk – and Bauer is no Greinke.
NEW YORK YANKEES: If any team can cope with the baggage he brings, then it’s the Yankees. Bauer’s personality would be diluted in New York, but I don’t think they need him. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon are dice rolls, but the Yankees seldom make mistakes – unless you count giving away Sonny Gray.
NEW YORK METS: Once again, the need for another top tier starter is minimal with Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, and Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard is due back midseason. The Mets are still viewed as one of the favourites in the sweepstakes, but the whole Bauer package doesn’t seem a sufficient reward for Steve Cohen to backtrack on his “integrity” comment.
I would have preferred to simply link to the tweet but it seems that the Mets owner has deleted his Twitter account.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS: When Bauer insinuated that Mike Trout took performance-enhancing drugs, he burned some of the bridges to Anaheim. The Angels are desperate to win while they have Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon, but surely they are savvy enough not to tie up a fortune based on two (or 1⅓ if you’re being pedantic) sub-4.00 ERA seasons over the last seven years.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech. They have already spent bigly and look favourites to win the AL Central. Their need for Bauer seems unclear.
SAN DIEGO PADRES: The last thing San Diego needs is another pitcher. Although it would probably bring a sunshine smile to Mike Clevinger’s face.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS: Did they blow the budget on George Springer? Is Bauer too brash for Canadian sensitivities?
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: We know they are not spooked by a bit of controversy but Fahan Zaidi is way too smart to be fooled by a 91 LOB%, .215 BABIP and 16% PU%.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: They can’t accept being the fourth (or fifth) team in the NL East. And they still have some of that “stupid money” but the signings of Matt Moore and Ivan Nova suggest they are not looking to add Bauer to join Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin.Embed from Getty Images
I can imagine trying to trade my Trevor Bauer for their Bryce Harper or Francisco Lindor in fantasy baseball. My fellow league mates would be like “Dude, it was only 11 starts, and half were against the Tigers, Royals and Pirates. Talk about trying to sell high.”
So to come full circle, if he brings unwanted disruptiveness along with an erratic level of performance, is free agent Trevor Bauer too divisive for a mega deal?
Well no, probably not. However, don’t be surprised if his signing disappoints one-third of the fanbase and his performances disappoint another, but also don’t be surprised if he ends up in the 2021 World Series.