MLB

Is Trevor Bauer Tipping His Move to a Hated Rival?

Scoring big in free agency during a pandemic will be a tall task for Trevor Bauer, but the Cincinnati Reds right-hander possesses more leverage than he’s ever had in his nine-year MLB career.

There will be multiple suitors this winter even as baseball owners claim financial ruin following a 60-game season with no ticket revenue. But Bauer might have shown savvy by seemingly opening the door to playing for one of the last places baseball fans imagined he might go.

Trevor Bauer made Cincinnati Reds history

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The Cy Young Award, presented annually to the best pitcher in baseball, has existed only since 1956, and there was only one honoree per year until the rule was changed to recognize one pitcher per league in 1967. Somehow, the Cincinnati Reds – the oldest franchise in the sport – managed to go until this week without earning the award.

That changed on Nov. 11 when right-hander Trevor Bauer collected 27 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Although Bauer posted a modest 5-4 record, he finished with a 1.73 ERA in 11 starts and struck out 100 batters in 73 innings.

He also pitched a pair of seven-inning shutouts, and his final outing was 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball with 12 strikeouts in a 1-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves in a 13-inning playoff game.

Bauer arrived in Cincinnati in 2018 via a late-season trade. He was on the books for $17.5 million this summer had MLB been able to conduct a full season. Instead, he earned a touch under $6.5 million.

His bank account is about to get an infusion of a lot more than that.

‘SI’ identifies five potential landing spots in free agency

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Other than years in which MLB players and owners went into the offseason without a labor agreement, this could be the tightest market for free agents ever because of uncertainty over whether the pandemic will limit attendance in 2021. Regardless, Cincinnati Reds ace Trevor Bauer can expect interest following a Cy Young Award season.

Sports Illustrated identified five teams that could be his landing spot, beginning with the New York Mets. That’s an obvious candidate since billionaire Steve Cohen just became the new owner and appears poised to spend. However, the Mets already have Jacob deGrom at the top of their rotation and show pressing needs in their everyday lineup.

The Atlanta Braves are also a questionable fit. The Braves possess pitching depth that isn’t likely to fall victim to a combination of injuries and sub-par stat lines two seasons in a row. As for the Los Angeles Angels, would Bauer truly consider playing for an owner who can put plenty of zeroes on a paycheck but has had zero success building a winner?

So, arguably the two most logical picks that the magazine has offered up would be the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. Both organizations have rosters stuffed with young – and therefore relatively inexpensive – talent. Of the two, the White Sox have better starting pitching, but not enough where adding Bauer to Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel would qualify as overkill.

Trevor Bauer may have tipped his hand

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Trevor Bauer is a guy who likes to stir things up. He’s impossible to miss on YouTube or social media, sometimes starting flame wars. There was probably no player who was harder on the Houston Astros over the sign-stealing scandal for which they were severely punished by commissioner Rob Manfred.

However, Bauer signaled a truce with the Astros in an interview with Complex.com. Although fans did not get to attend regular-season games in-person to give Houston’s players an earful in 2020, Bauer said he sees no need to extend the hatred into 2021.

“The season’s over so I do feel like it’s time to let bygones be bygones,” he said. “They had their Astros-shaming tour. It’s time to move on.”

The Astros had to sneak into the 2020 playoffs with a 29-31 record, but they came within a Game 7 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays of reaching the World Series. And that’s after consecutive seasons of 101, 103, and 107 victories.

The Astros have been consistent top-10 spenders. They are close to freeing up a lot of money that’s committed for 2021.

Justin Verlander turns 38 in February and Zack Greinke just turned 37. Both pitchers are heading into their contract year. Verlander made just one start this past season. Greinke’s numbers remained solid, but he did post his worst ERA and WHIP since 2016.

Between them, that’s $70 million a year that could come off the books after one more season. Bauer, 29, might be just the man to take over the top of the rotation and provide leadership for a brigade of starters under the age of 28.