In case you’ve been living under a rock, Trevor Bauer signed a three-year, $102 million deal with the Dodgers yesterday that will make him the highest-paid player in baseball for 2021.
While people certainly had takes on this, there weren’t as many interesting ones out there as I would’ve thought, though I suppose that might come later on. Regardless, let’s go through what’s out there now.
So far there hasn’t been a ton of reaction from people affiliated with the Dodgers, which is understandable as it’s not yet official, but Blake Treinen did weigh in on radio.
Yeah, that’s unsurprising to me.
Despite the fact that many who interacted with the post about the transaction apparently cannot actually read the words written, Treinen’s thoughts about tracks with my expectations.
As I said yesterday, I’m kinda optimistic the clubhouse thing won’t be an issue because of the strong established environment and leaders within it, that Bauer’s track record at least as a teammate seems to be improving, and that quite frankly a great majority of his peers likely either agree with his views at least in part or simply do not care. Now, of course one doesn’t have to like that reality, but that’s probably how it is at the moment, regardless.
Honestly, it’s been kinda bizarre cause initially thought I might catch shit from the other direction for being cautiously optimistic about Bauer’s signing despite my misgivings. In reality, one dude even got mad at me for writing that it was a three-year, $103 million deal. Hey, lesson learned, never underestimate the mentality of people who stan for these dudes, man.
The Athletic: Ken Rosenthal reveals that as recently as 24 hours before he signed, the Dodgers thought they were out of the running.
Only 24 hours before, the Dodgers had thought they were out on Bauer, and that the Mets indeed were close to landing him. Others in the industry were saying the same. But things often turn quickly in free agency, and Bauer has spent his entire career defying conventional wisdom. If ever a free agent seemed capable of pulling a last-minute surprise, it was him.
Baseball Prospectus: Ginny Searle takes a full accounting of his overall volatility.
Bauer would tell you his mid-career Renaissance was the result of something more complicated than strikeouts and walks, but it feels comfortable assigning most of the improvement in that direction. The velocity spiked up for several seasons, but in 2020 dipped to 93.8 mph on the four-seam fastball, his lowest showing since 2015, and it was still the best year of Bauer’s career. The homer rate has bounced around, too, but in 2020 sat at 1.1 home runs per nine, just in line with his career rate. The career-best rates in both strikeouts and free passes were instrumental in that 1.73 ERA (as was a 90.9 percent strand rate, but at least some portion of that second-in-the-league showing is thanks to the high punchout rate). The skeleton key to modern free agency, though, is teams no longer deign to pay for what a player has done, being interested instead in what they are likely to do next. Can Trevor Bauer do this again, or more broadly, across a full season? As to the latter question, it’s only fair to point out he largely did so, in a 5.7-win 2018. That year’s 0.46 home run rate is nearly half a dinger per inning lower than any other mark of the former third-overall pick’s career, however, offering no definitive answer to the question of if another Cy Young-worthy season can happen without an outlier mark—in home run rate, strikeout rate, or something else. Put another way, Trevor Bauer’s two non-consecutive exemplary seasons haven’t offered enough to establish him as an exemplary pitcher.
The Ringer: Michael Baumann ties the positives and negatives of the deal together remarkably well.
In 2019, he famously told Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter that he has two skills: “throwing baseballs, and pissing people off.”
He’s a very, very good pitcher, but he’s good at two things, and the Dodgers now have to live with both.
FanGraphs: Ben Clemens had interesting thoughts specifically on how reliant the deal is on the four-seam fastball continuing to be elite.
Bauer’s 2020 success depended largely on that fastball. He throws plenty of other pitches — a slider, a cutter, and a curveball — but he pared back his two weakest offerings, a changeup and a sinker that both ranked as his worst pitches in past years. By focusing on what worked best and avoiding what didn’t, he looked much improved.
ESPN: Alden Gonzalez says the Dodgers made a statement to their competition.
While the eager, hard-charging, division rival San Diego Padres and their hyper-competitive general manager, A.J. Preller, worked to bolster an ascending roster, acquiring a number of high-end starting pitchers, the Dodgers — arguably still better in the present, and more sustainable in the long term — waited on an opportunity they seemed content with missing. When it actually came to them on Friday afternoon, by way of outdueling the New York Mets for Trevor Bauer, the best free-agent starter by a wide margin, they let it be known: There’s us, and then there’s everybody else.
The Athletic: Pedro Moura believes it was a rather bewildering decision for a team in their position.
The Dodgers made, in that way, a bewildering decision. For six years under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, they have collected financial flexibility and cultivated clubhouse chemistry. On Friday, they agreed to soar past the luxury-tax threshold and surrender much of the former while risking much of the latter. They acquired a man with a history of antagonistic behavior. As the contract has not yet been formally announced, the Dodgers have not spoken to that yet. Soon enough they must.
The Athletic: Molly Knight is conflicted about the signing and doesn’t think he’ll be worth the headache.
It’s not a great feeling to be a fan who’s conflicted about rooting for a favorite team. Obviously, the Dodgers didn’t feel that Bauer’s past was enough to preclude them from adding him to their roster. They also don’t seem to be concerned that his personality could fracture the chemistry in a clubhouse that finally overcame its near-decade of titanic ego clashes to win a title. Maybe he’ll pitch well and stay off social media altogether. It’s just hard to see how alienating a segment of the team’s loyal fan base is worth whatever value he provides on the field. The Dodgers won without him three months ago. Signing him isn’t worth the headache.
Los Angeles Times: Bill Plaschke gives the deal his kiss of death that can only be undone by the likes of Bob Nightengale.
Seriously, who’s going to beat them now?
True Blue LA: Eric Stephen looks at the luxury tax implications of the signing, and as usual he lays it out as well as anybody.
The CBT threshold this season is $210 million. The Dodgers as “first-time payers,” having not paid competitive balance tax since 2017, though they would have gone over the threshold last year had David Price not opted out of the season. They are taxed at 20 percent of the first $20 million over $210 million. For the next $20 million over $230 million, the Dodgers would pay 32 percent. Anything over $250 million would be taxed at 62.5 percent, and the Dodgers would see their first draft pick in 2022 drop 10 slots. If they stay at the current $238.5 million, without adding anyone else, that would incur a tax of $6.72 million ($4 million for the first $20 million over, then $2.72 million for the amount above $230 million). But given likely additions either before or during the season, plus some achievable performances bonuses, it could go even higher (if they don’t trade others away).
As you’ve probably figured out by now, at the very least it’s probably not gonna be boring around these parts.