Of all MLB players this offseason, Trevor Bauer’s name is the one that comes up the most.
From start to finish last year, Bauer proved his mastery over every hitter he faced. His sizzling fastball and brusque game face only added to his status as an urban legend. Bauer finished the year with a modest 5-4 record, but excelled in terms of ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.795) and strikeouts (100 of them).
While in Cincinnati, Bauer proved that players don’t always have to be well-liked to be the best on the field. Winning the ERA crown coupled with the National League Cy Young proves that. Since 2012, Bauer has been through ups and downs that most MLB players never fully move past. 3-team trades. Bad Cleveland Indians teams. A lacerated finger from flying his drone.
But Bauer seems to have come out stronger on the other side of these obstacles.
Baseball fans might also recognize Bauer from his colorful tweets over the past several years. He’s definitely an outspoken player, and Bauer has taken to Twitter (@BauerOutage) to comment about lots of things surrounding baseball, especially this past season. Sometimes, it was to criticize league protocols; other times Bauer showed off his colorful and hilarious cleats. But he always made an impression.
Hey @mlb since I guess it’s in violation of your new social media policy to post this picture, tag @Reds, and link people to https://t.co/1kLHVZJAoh, what is the fine and who should I make it out to? Or is this policy going to be selectively enforced like your other ones? pic.twitter.com/evVl7LK8KK
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) September 16, 2020
Hey @tatis_jr listen up:
1) Keep swinging 3-0 if you want to, no matter what the game situation is
2) Keep hitting homers, no matter what the situation is
3) Keep bringing energy and flash to baseball and making it fun
4) The only thing you did wrong was apologize. Stop that.
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) August 18, 2020
Families can’t stay with players at our hotel. It’s supposed to be a “bubble”, yet random members of the community can stay there, ride the same elevators, share the same lobby, etc. Some bubble this is. I guess player families should just call the hotel and book a room?
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) September 28, 2020
Knocking on His Door
This offseason grants Bauer his first opportunity in his career to explore the free agent market. He declined Cincinnati’s $18.9 million qualifying offer to return to the Reds next season back in November. Across the board, fans and baseball writers agreed with the move. Bauer had shown his contributions to the Reds were much more valuable than that average annual value. Initial predictions place his value higher than $20 million next season. After denying the qualifying offer, the sweepstakes for Trevor Bauer had begun.
Initial reports on his free agency didn’t appear that hopeful, however. Back in April, Bauer had gone on record saying he only wanted one-year deals for the rest of his career. Doing so would maximize his financial value, as well as push Bauer to continue his high performance. Now with more leverage to command his own salary, Bauer’s agent sought to clarify his statements.
“We are open to & will be considering ALL types of deals,” tweeted Bauer’s agent Rachel Luba back in October.
The obvious exception to Luba’s remarks would include teams that don’t put forward enough money to convince Bauer. There are a lot of these teams. With uncertainty heading into next season, only select franchises realistically own the financial flexibility to tender Bauer an offer. Teams in this mix include the Mets, LA Angels, Dodgers and Padres. For non-insiders, making a prediction on Bauer’s landing spot is complete guesswork, not to mention nonsensical.
Each of these teams is highly intriguing for the 29-year-old. The Angels are in desperate need of pitching alongside their loaded offense. Bauer could reconnect with his former teammate Mike Clevinger in San Diego next season. The hard push from New York Mets fans and the deeply-lined pockets of owner Steve Cohen’s could persuade Bauer to join a super-rotation in New York. And just imagine the Dodgers’ pitching staff should Bauer sign there. LA would literally be untouchable.
Rightly so then, Bauer is seen as the crowned jewel among MLB free agents this offseason.
In the spirit of the MLB Hot Stove, Bauer has engaged with fans on twitter throughout the offseason. He’s been facetious for sure, asking fanbases for their best pitch to sign in their city. Bauer even ranked the top-five fanbases that have engaged with him this offseason in a recent YouTube video. Bauer’s channel has more than 133,000 subscribers to date.
State of Negotiations & Free Agency
Bauer and Luba have kept pretty reserved when discussing team negotiations this offseason, and this isn’t a huge surprise. Most athletes and their agents don’t openly discuss ongoing negotiations so that teams cannot collude on what salary they’ll offer. As the top free agent in this year’s class, keeping negotiations private allows Bauer more freedom to judge whatever teams’ offers come in. It feels all the more like a real sweepstakes, courtesy of none other than Trevor Bauer.
But Jon Heyman, an MLB Network insider, reported on Friday that the suitors for Bauer might be thinning. The Reds could not seem to yield a competitive offer for their former ace.
Not a shock, Trevor Bauer is too expensive for Reds. So he will be pitching elsewhere next year. Still, they shouldn’t have too many regrets. He got them to the playoffs and pitched a gem when there, and he won the Reds first Cy Young Award. Plus, they will get a draft pick.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 18, 2020
On the surface, this scoop from Heyman makes at least some sense. Cincinnati has been active this offseason, where they’ve already non-tendered reliever Archie Bradley and outfielder Brian Goodwin. The team also traded closer Raisel Iglesias at the beginning of this month, following his best season in Cincinnati. With the club’s current trajectory, it also would be difficult to convince Bauer to return with hopes of competing for the divisional crown.
But Bauer, refused to squelch Reds’ fans hopes of a reunion. Never one run from a Twitter fight, the pitcher responded to Heyman’s claims with measured skepticism… and sarcasm.
You know more about the plans of all 30 teams than the person talking to them directly on my behalf? 😱 Bold claim, kiddo. Logicing your way through something is one thing, reporting it as definitive news is another. But I think you are smart enough on your own to understand that https://t.co/pvJsOaLWuI
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) December 19, 2020
Bauer’s calling the report “fake news”, put more simply. It would seem as though Heyman wants to prepare Reds fans for what will be an emotional separation. Even if the report isn’t true, Heyman still isn’t trying to mislead anyone, right? But to Bauer, this exchange is critical for his long-term decision. ‘Don’t trust what anyone else is telling you,’ he says. ‘When I decide where I’m signing, I will be the one to announce it.’
But considering this high-pressure sweepstakes shows just how much control Trevor Bauer has had on this offseason. He doesn’t like the reports going around? Disprove them. Bauer wants to know which fanbase will be the most loyal to him? Make them prove themselves. It’s astounding to think that one player has such a level of power over everyone — teams, fans and sportswriters.
All this is a way to say no one knows how the Trevor Bauer sweepstakes will end. Perhaps Bauer signs tomorrow and all his manipulative videos sharply halt. Or maybe Bauer strings along all the baseball world until they’ve set a date for spring training. With how polarizing of a figure he is, almost nothing would surprise fans at this point.
But the pitcher deserves credit for what sort of innovation he’s brought to the process of free agency. Bauer’s direct engagement with competing franchises of fans is something unheard of in the game’s history. In the most boring portion of the baseball “season”, Bauer’s antics and/or strategy has gotten fans more engaged and excited for what comes next year on the diamond. He’s writing a new set of rules for how the game can be played. Maybe everyone doesn’t agree with those rules — but Bauer doesn’t care.
Because whether or not anybody likes them, Bauer will still walk onto the mound millions of dollars richer in 2021. Fans and writers and broadcasters have no idea where Bauer will be, and maybe that’s the fun part of all this.
The fans around Bauer won’t care about the circus act they participated in this offseason. They won’t remember the hundreds and thousands of social media posts it required to secure his services. History will forget the man who navigated the drama all with a mischievous, knowing smile and a blistering Twitter account.
Instead, people will remember the baseball player and what Bauer means to their club’s hopes of winning in October. They’ll just be happy that Bauer chose their team.
So give the man a pass for now. He’ll have plenty of time to put his money where his mouth is.
Featured Image Courtesy of CBS Sports.com
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