Trevor Bauer, coming off of a career year, is getting a lot of buzz as a potential signing for over half the league. He has said that he only plans on signing one-year deals, but as one of the best starting pitchers on the market, he will get offered multi-year deals. Bauer might be looking at 250M dollar offers this year, or if he follows through on his word, he could sign a one year deal upwards of 40M.
Last offseason, there were two ace starting pitchers on the market that signed record-setting contracts, Gerrit Cole, with the Yankees for 324M, and Stephen Strasburg with the Nationals for 245M. Bauer, one of the top free-agent starting pitchers this offseason, had a bounce-back year in 2020, posting a 1.73 ERA and 12.33 K/9.
Following his top 10 finish in Cy Young voting in 2018 and a solid start to 2019, he struggled upon his arrival to Cincinnati. Bauer had a great year, but his 1.11 HR/9 and 2.88 FIP (compared to his 1.73 ERA) are slightly alarming. Bauer could choose to re-sign with Cincinnati, but I expect him to move on to a new organization.
In no particular order, here are my favorites for Bauer to sign with this offseason.
New York Mets
Entering 2020, the Mets were projected to have an elite rotation with two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman. Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery and Stroman opted out, and the Mets rotation struggled all season long. The Mets even had to move their star reliever, Seth Lugo, to their rotation.
The Mets only have 3 players currently under contract for 2021, and they have a good amount of money to spend. Bauer would complement the 1-2 punch of deGrom and Syndergaard at the top of their rotation. With Bauer, the Mets’ rotation could be up to par with their bullpen and starting lineup, which both had great years in 2020.
Potential 2021 rotation: deGrom, Syndergaard, Bauer, Peterson, Matz
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels already have a lot of money locked into massive contracts (Trout, Rendon, Pujols), but making a splash for Bauer could put the Angels over the hump. The Angels finished 8th in wRC+, but went only 26-34 and finished 4th place in the AL West, largely due to having the second worst rotation ERA in the league.
Breakout star Dylan Bundy had a 3.29 ERA, 2.95 FIP, and 3.80 SIERA in 65.2 IP in 2020. Griffin Canning had a 3.99 ERA but overperformed his peripherals, while Andrew Heaney had a 4.46 ERA but underperformed his.
Pairing a star pitcher with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani is the best answer for the Angels moving forward. The Angels have a 3-time AL MVP award winner and another top-10 player but have failed to make the playoffs since 2014 due to a lack of starting pitchers. Signing Bauer could give the Angels the best chance to win their first World Series championship since 2002.
Potential 2021 rotation: Bauer, Bundy, Heaney, Canning, Ohtani
The Braves took a 3-1 lead over the Dodgers in the NLCS but lost in 7 games. They surprised many by making it that far in spite of injuries to starters Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels. With Hamels’ contract expiring and Soroka’s status still unknown for 2021, Bauer could help solidify their young rotation like Hamels was supposed to in 2020. Atlanta had the 3rd worst ERA among starting pitchers, but Ian Anderson emerged as a great option and he threw huge innings in the playoffs.
The offense was great behind MVP front-runner Freddie Freeman and young superstar Ronald Acuna Jr., they had the fourth-best bullpen in the league, but their rotation held them back from being the best team in the National League. Even with Marcell Ozuna’s contract ending, the Braves should look to upgrade their rotation this offseason, and Bauer might be the guy for them.
Potential 2021 rotation: Bauer, Soroka, Fried, Anderson, Wright
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox broke out in 2020 behind an explosive offense that ranked among the best in the league. They also had a solid rotation ERA at 3.85 (8th in MLB), but their 4.46 FIP (18th) and 4.69 SIERA (22nd) don’t look amazing entering next season. Their ace, Lucas Giolito, had a great season in 2020 to follow his breakout year in 2019. Dallas Keuchel had a 1.99 ERA despite his 3.08 FIP, 3.98 xFIP and 3.98 SIERA. Their rookie Dylan Cease could be a great pitcher if he could manage his walk rate.
The White Sox showed last season that they are willing to spend after signing Yasmani Grandal to a $73M dollar deal. Bauer would fit the White Sox nicely, as he could slide into the top of their rotation and even if it is on a massive contract, the White Sox have most of their stars locked up for the future already. The White Sox could use an outfielder, but a starting pitcher may fit their roster more than anything else.
Potential 2021 rotation: Bauer, Giolito, Keuchel, Cease, Dunning
Los Angeles Dodgers
After a disappointing end to the 2019 season, starting pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda moved on from the Dodgers, joining the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins, respectively. The Dodgers may win a World Series championship in 2020 and they already have a deep rotation, but signing a top tier starting pitcher to a short-term contract will help them contend for more titles. The Dodgers had an amazing rotation in 2020, headlined by the great Clayton Kershaw and a core of amazing young arms.
The Dodgers may not need him as much as some other teams, but they have money to spend, especially for short contracts. LA might be ideal for Bauer, giving him his best chance at a title and potentially the one year deal that he wants. With Bauer, the Dodgers 2021 rotation would be Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Bauer, David Price and Julio Urias, potentially the best in the league to pair with a top-three offense. If Bauer’s main goal to win a World Series, the Dodgers may be the best fit for him.
Potential 2021 rotation: Buehler, Kershaw, Bauer, Urias, Price
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox won 108 games and the World Series in 2018, but disappointed in 2019 and finished last in their division this year. Their starting rotation was among the worst in the league in IP (29th), ERA (25th), SIERA (27th), and WAR (30th). With Chris Sale, a top 5 pitcher in the league, and Eduardo Rodriguez potentially returning next season, Bauer could help turn them from one of the worst to a top rotation in baseball. The Red Sox still have a potent offense, and they could return as contenders with the addition of a great starting pitcher.
The Red Sox traded 2018 MVP Mookie Betts in an attempt to cut payroll and stay under the 2nd luxury cap hit, but they still have a good enough team to contend with the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays in the AL East next season. Boston may be hesitant to spend on a big contract like Bauer, but if they’re not, the Red Sox could be a good fit for the free-agent starter.
Potential 2021 rotation: Sale, Bauer, Rodriguez, Eovaldi, Houck/Pivetta/FA
San Diego Padres
The Padres seem like the perfect match for Bauer, pairing the most fun team in baseball with one of the most fun players. Despite missing their top two starting pitchers, Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger, the Padres made it to the NLDS in their return to the playoffs after a 14-year drought. The Padres offense was among the best in the league in 2020, but they seem bound for regression after getting unsustainable contributions from Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer.
San Diego is looking like they could challenge the Dodgers in the NL West for years to come, and the addition of Trevor Bauer could help them moving forward. The Padres rotation was great in 2020, but adding Bauer could make it one of the best in baseball.
Potential 2021 rotation: Clevinger, Bauer, Lamet, Paddack, Davies
This may be unpopular, but I would love to see Trevor Bauer in Houston next season. The Astros have a knack for improving pitchers’ skillsets and both the organization and Bauer are analytically driven.
The Astros were able to redefine the careers of Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole and helped Justin Verlander return to Cy Young form after appearing to decline in his last years in Detroit. Even though Bauer was critical of the Astros’ cheating scandal and was a major voice against them, he has not ruled out joining the team for next year, even hinting at joining them on Twitter.
The 2020 Astros surprised many by making it to their 4th consecutive ALCS despite finishing with a below-.500 record for the first time since 2014. They were able to push the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays to 7 games, even without their ace, closer and clean-up hitter. Adding a starter in free agency would give them a dominant rotation once again, even without their ace, former MVP Justin Verlander. With Bauer to solidify their rotation, the Astros would be back once again next season with a chance to win a 2nd World Series title in 2021.
Potential 2021 rotation: Bauer, Valdez, Grienke, McCullers, Urquidy