Trevor Bauer is a unique pitcher with a unique mindset. His outspokenness on Twitter and elsewhere has ruffled feathers of teams and fans alike, but his on-the-field performance is indisputable: Bauer is one of the best pitchers available on the free agent market.
Players with large platforms and large mouths like Bauer often have a propensity to say unconventional things, and bring forward unconventional perspectives. Bauer has repeatedly reminded everyone over the course of the last couple years that if he were to sign a multi-year deal, a good friend would win a ridiculous bet. If he made good on his promise, Bauer would be the only free agent to ever spurn large-scale, multi-year deals year-in-and-year-out, and frankly, it’s doubtful he’d go that route once he sees the numbers dangled in front of him.
Bauer has a long history of juvenile teenage-boyish rhetoric, (albeit sometimes for a good cause) so we should take everything with a very large 69 ounce grain of salt, especially considering how his agent recently back-tracked the line-in-the-sand previously offered by Bauer himself.
Regardless of Bauer’s antics and persona, the former Indians and Reds starter is coming off an excellent 2020 in which he pitched 73 excellent innings. His 100:17 K:BB rate was good for sixth strikeout to walk rate among all 2020 qualified starters.
At the age of 29, Bauer last season posted career highs in strikeout rate, walk rate, ERA, ERA-, FIP, FIP-, WHIP, and batting average against. He also limited hard contact on batted balls, lowering his rate by about five percentage points, and allowing only ¼ hard hit contact.
Bauer didn’t allow a ton of baserunners in 2020, but those who did got on base rarely ever scored. He benefited by a 91 percent strand rate, something that is unlikely to continue in 2021 and beyond. He also was the beneficiary of a career low, and likely unsustainable, .215 batting average on balls in play.
What can we expect from Bauer in the future?
Bauer is an innings eater who will serve any of the 30 teams well. We’re quite a few months away from any Zips or PECOTA projections, but based on his past performance, we can reasonably expect a three-to-five win player who will give a team anywhere between 170 and 190 well-above-average innings.
Bauer performed well in the Reds’ short-stint in the 2020 postseason. His one start of 7 2⁄3 innings of scoreless ball, and his 12 strikeouts and zero walks is a testament to his ability to command a playoff game, and potentially a playoff series.
Beyond drone issues, he has been healthy for nearly all of his MLB career, a good sign for a free agent pitcher entering his age-30 season. Good health begets good health, and the best indicator that a player will find himself on the injured list in the future is if he’s been on the injured list in the past.
We’re not really in the business of making predictions at this site, and as stated above, nearly every team would benefit from signing Bauer. Stylistically, he probably would be best with a player’s manager who lets him be himself, and doesn’t stifle his uniqueness (this probably rules out the White Sox).
What would be a pretty interesting and fun storyline would be Bauer signing with the Mets under new owner Steve Cohen, who opens the pocketbook to sign Gerrit Cole’s former UCLA teammate and nemesis, Trevor Bauer.