At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the upcoming offseason looks as if it will feature one of the most unique free agents in the history of baseball. Reds ace Trevor Bauer is due to reach the open market off what could be a National League Cy Young-winning season, but very few people know how he will approach his trip to free agency.
The outspoken, offbeat Bauer has mentioned in the past that he would willing to take one-year contracts throughout his career, which would be an odd turn of events for someone who should have the most earning power of all upcoming free agents. Still, based on what he said, Bauer could go that route. On the other hand, Bauer stated in September that he is “not afraid of the longer deals,” meaning it’s anyone’s guess which path the 29-year-old right-hander will choose. Indeed, Bauer added to that earlier this month when he tweeted, “I will consider all offers.”
Notably, Bauer has acknowledged plenty of teams via his Twitter page since the Reds’ playoff season ended Oct. 1. He seems willing to re-up with the Reds, who now-former president of baseball operations Dick Williams said will do all they can to retain Bauer. It’s unclear whether that’s realistic for Cincinnati, which doesn’t boast a big-market budget. Otherwise, Bauer has mentioned the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Braves, Blue Jays, Angels, Orioles and Astros on his Twitter account over the past couple weeks.
It’s probably fair to rule out the Orioles, as they’re rebuilding and Bauer has made it clear winning is a top priority. The Astros are perennial contenders, meanwhile, but there’s no love lost between Bauer and the organization. Remember, Bauer has taken several jabs at the Astros over the years, even calling them “hypocrites” and “cheaters” as recently as last offseason.
Conversely, the Dodgers, Angels and Yankees – three high-spending teams – look as if they’ll be active in the Bauer race. A native of North Hollywood, Bauer has made it no secret in the past that he’d like to suit up for the Dodgers.
“I look forward to playing for the Dodgers one day. I grew up out in Valencia, so I would love to come home,” he said (via dodgerblue.com).
While Bauer may be a luxury for a Dodgers club that’s flush with pitching, a big-money, short-term deal may nonetheless be up the club’s alley. The nearby Angels and the Yankees have more acute needs in their rotations, meanwhile, as well as the spending power to reel in Bauer. In theory, the presence of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole – whom they signed for a record nine years and $324MM just an offseason ago – could negatively affect a Bauer chase. After all, Bauer and Cole have not gotten along since their days as teammates at UCLA, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today explained back in May 2018.
“They are opposites, just such complete opposites,” former UCLA assistant Rick Vanderhook told Nightengale, who noted that Bauer is the more analytical of the two.
Despite their differences, though, Bauer has recently implied he’d consider an offer from the Yankees. He even complimented Cole after he threw a gem on short rest in the Yankees’ Game 5, season-ending loss in the ALDS against the Rays last Friday.
“Anyone who is willing to come out on short rest to put his team on his back and try and win a must win playoff game has my respect,” Bauer tweeted. “Great performance tonight.”
While that doesn’t mean he and Cole are about to become best friends, it is notable as Bauer’s free agency approaches. He’s clearly leaving most or all options on the table, though it does seem contenders that would enable Bauer to pitch on four days of rest stand the greatest chance of landing him. It remains to be seen which club will wind up as the best fit in Bauer’s mind, or whether he’ll take a short- or long-term offer, but his decision could be the most fascinating of the offseason.