Angels are reportedly no longer a part of the Trevor Bauer sweepstakes, made me want to take a deeper dive into the risks associated with signing Bauer. It wound up going for quite a while, and I started having reservations about the direction I was going with it, so I made the decision to table it until today and see how I felt about it. I don't have many personal rules about what I write about here, and occasionally wander pretty far from strictly adhering to posts about the Mets and even baseball. One rule that I always try to stick to, however, is write something that I would enjoy reading. If it fails that test, why would I want to share it with anyone else?
In rereading my writing from yesterday, I was struck by how relentlessly negative it seemed. I definitely have reservations about the Mets signing the guy, but I'm not dead set against it. I could see it going either way. You couldn't tell that from what I wrote, though. I let myself go off on a tangent and the result was something with which I was no longer comfortable. So we're going to consign those words to the ether and try this again.
The questions about Bauer range from both on and off the field. First on the field: he wants to be paid as an elite pitcher, but there are still questions about whether he is or not. To briefly summarize:
- We don't expect as much out of starting pitchers as we used to, but we certainly expect elite pitchers to make over 30 starts and pitch 200+ innings. Bauer has pitched over 200 innings once in his career. He's made 30 or more starts 3 times.
- Much of Bauer's recent success is based on increasing spin rate. He infamously accused Astros pitchers of cheating with substances to up their spin rate, but if MLB really started cracking down on pitchers using sticky stuff to achieve higher spin rates, will we see his own spin rate come back down?
- The teams that Bauer pitched against in his Cy Young season last year: He faced the 23-35 Tigers twice, the 29-31 Brewers three times, the 19-41 Pirates twice and the 26-34 Royals once. The only games he started against winning teams were two against the Cubs and once vs the White Sox. In his defense, he had an excellent playoff start vs. Atlanta.
The evaluation that the Mets front office has to make in pursuing Bauer isn't just whether or not he can continue to be an an above average MLB starting pitcher, but whether he is truly an elite pitcher. He wants to be paid as an elite starter. If he doesn't give you ace-level results, you've overpaid for his services. Money overpaid for one player is money not available to fill another need. Opt-outs in his contract would only matter if he did perform at an elite level and felt he could get more money elsewhere. He's not opting out if his performance regresses.
If they decide that Bauer will continue to be an elite pitcher, their off the field considerations are more complicated. Bauer has had some well-documented clashes with teammates, coaches and, infamously, a female college student on Twitter. Bauer doesn't seem to have a lot of self-control when it comes to steering away from controversy. The young woman's tweet that Bauer was her "new least favorite person in all sports." led to a ridiculous overreaction from the star pitcher that you might expect to see from a high school kid with low self-control, not a grown man who is an established major league pitcher. Combining that kind of volatility and poor judgement with the New York media market seems like a recipe for disaster.
Obviously the Mets front office weighed all of these risk factors and still found it worthwhile to go ahead with making an offer to Trevor Bauer. According to Mike Puma in the Post, the Mets proposal to Bauer was "north of $30 million for at least four years, with opt outs embedded in the contract." If these numbers are true, they're betting that Bauer will continue to pitch at an elite level and avoid Twitter wars with random college girls. That's going out on quite a limb.
I understand the play here if the Mets do sign the guy. If this works out the Mets would have a formidable starting rotation and a legitimate shot at winning a title. Probably there isn't a single other move they could make that would give them as good of a shot at a title — again, if it works out.
If they do sign Bauer, I'm going to swallow hard and root like hell that it all works out. I'm not someone who believes that everyone on your team has to be a "good guy." But I'd honestly prefer to see them go elsewhere with their money.
Please stay safe, be well and take care.
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