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The Winners and Losers After Trevor Bauer Signs $102M Contract with Dodgers

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The Winners and Losers After Trevor Bauer Signs $102M Contract with Dodgers

Martin Fenn

Featured Columnist IFebruary 6, 2021

The Winners and Losers After Trevor Bauer Signs $102M Contract with Dodgers

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    The defending World Series champions just got stronger.

    On Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a three-year deal with free-agent starter Trevor Bauer, who confirmed the signing on his

    YouTube

    channel. According to

    Mark Feinsand

    of MLB.com, Bauer’s deal is worth $102 million, and he can opt out after each of the first two years. He is slated to make a record-breaking $40 million in 2021 and $45 million in 2022.

    A little more than a year after Gerrit Cole signed his historic nine-year, $324 million contract with the New York Yankees, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner signed his own megadeal, albeit with a vastly different structure.

    The right-handed ace will have the opportunity to win his first World Series while pitching roughly 16 miles from his hometown of North Hollywood.

    Who are some of the winners and losers of the Bauer sweepstakes? Let’s take a look at the parties benefiting the most from Friday’s news, as well as those left with something of a bitter aftertaste.

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Winner: Trevor Bauer

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Do we really need to elaborate on why Bauer is the biggest winner?

    He’ll be making the highest single-season salary in MLB history in each of the next two years. He also has the opportunity to opt out after each campaign following his previous 

    comments

    about wanting to sign contracts year-to-year, maintaining tremendous flexibility.

    Plus, we cannot ignore the comfort of pitching close to home. Keep in mind 

    Joel Sherman

    of the New York Post reported the New York Mets offered Bauer slightly more in guaranteed money.

    In coming home, Bauer is joining an organization that has a similar approach to pitching analytics. Dodgers pitchers like Clayton Kershaw were among those to

    visit

    Driveline Baseball last year, and Bauer is one of the more notable Driveline products.

    There’s also this: Dodger Stadium is more of a pitcher-friendly environment than Great American Ball Park. The latter was the fourth-friendliest run-scoring environment in 2020, per ESPN’s

    Park Factor

    . Dodger Stadium ranked 21st.

    That was not an aberration during a short season either. Great American ranked 11th in Park Factor in

    2019

    , whereas Dodger Stadium ranked 24th. Granted, there is some fluidity to this metric, but it stands to reason Bauer could benefit from a change in venue. Not to mention, the Dodgers ranked second in defensive runs saved in 2020, per 

    FanGraphs

    .

    The fit makes sense from both a baseball and philosophical perspective. Bauer will make a massive chunk of cash while still having the ability to earn a lucrative, long-term contract in the near future.

    He is the biggest winner here.

Loser: Mid-Tier Free Agents

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    All the talk of financial gloom and doom did not inhibit the Dodgers from surpassing—actually, far surpassing—the $210 luxury-tax threshold in order to sign Bauer, according to

    Roster Resource

    .

    The Mets were essentially willing to do the same. But Bauer is a star. He was always going to command a high dollar value.

    Realistically, the structure of Bauer’s deal is likely to further the gap between the top tier of free agents and what

    Andy McCullough

    of The Athletic deemed baseball’s “middle class.”

    What is to stop big-market clubs like L.A. or New York from throwing money at top stars with opt-outs in an effort to lure them to town? With small-market clubs either intent on cutting or mitigating spending, where will this “middle class” turn?

    One-year deals have been all the rage this offseason. Starting pitchers have done better than expected in a depressed market. But again, the majority have had to accept

    one-year pacts

    . The same can mostly be said of the

    relief market

     aside from headliner Liam Hendriks.

    Position players have essentially been in the same boat, though George Springer (

    six years, $150 million

    ), DJ LeMahieu (

    six years, $90 million

    ) and J.T. Realmuto (

    five years, $115.5 million

    ) cashed out.

    In the aftermath of Cole’s and Bauer’s contracts, it is fair to wonder just how far teams will push the envelope to sign the top stars. That is bad news for future Tier 2 and 3 free agents, many of whom will likely be on the open market more than they might like.

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Winner: Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman continues to flex his muscle as perhaps the best executive in baseball. On the surface, all he did was pay big money for the top free agent available. But it goes deeper than that.

    Los Angeles came into the offseason seemingly needing bullpen help. Friedman added a pair of reclamation projects in Corey Knebel and Tommy Kahnle (who will likely be unavailable in 2021 because of Tommy John surgery) and signed Blake Treinen.

    Still, it appeared as if the Dodgers needed another arm, likely a left-hander. But rather than paying funds for a traditional reliever, Friedman made a move that has big ramifications for the bullpen.

    The signing of Bauer, plus the expected return of David Price, gives the Dodgers a wealth of options. Los Angeles will now run out Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Bauer and Price as its first four starters. The team can choose from any of Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May in the fifth spot, and all three could become key bullpen arms capable of long relief.

    L.A. will have even more flexibility if Bauer insists on pitching

    every fourth day

    .

    For those thinking this is somewhat inconsequential, remember how important May and Urias were in L.A.’s bullpen during the postseason. Urias was particularly crucial in the late innings, throwing three scoreless frames to close out Game 7 of the NLCS and tossing 2.1 scoreless innings in Game 6 of the World Series. 

    This was as much about Friedman understanding his personnel as well as the synergy between Bauer and the organization. Additionally, guys like May, Urias and Gonsolin could be trade assets in the event Friedman sees the need for positional upgrades.

    Whichever way you stack it, Los Angeles’ pitching staff is all the more loaded from top to bottom.

Loser: San Diego Padres

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    It’s hard to label the Mets “losers,” considering the offer they made. The opportunity to pitch close to home seemingly tugged on Bauer’s heartstrings.

    Plus, the Mets still have decent rotation depth with the addition of Carlos Carrasco and

    might pivot

    to Jake Odorizzi to fill things out or

    get more aggressive

    for center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. They’ll also have more future funds for a possible Francisco Lindor extension.

    The Toronto Blue Jays could still use a front-line starter to pair with Hyun Jin Ryu, but it was unlikely they were going to pay Bauer that kind of annual value.

    And while Bauer would have been an ideal target for the Los Angeles Angels at the top of the rotation, the

    sour relationship

    with pitching coach Mickey Callaway made a partnership increasingly unlikely.

    Before the Dodgers signed Bauer, the Padres arguably had the advantage in the rotation. San Diego’s top three of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Dinelson Lamet looked like it would match up nicely with Buehler, Kershaw and Price in a head-to-head series, plus the Friars added depth with Joe Musgrove.

    Top prospect

    MacKenzie Gore is still waiting in the wings, and San Diego will hope for an improved season from Chris Paddack.

    But the insertion of Bauer into L.A.’s rotation swings the tide back in the Dodgers’ favor. And while the Dodgers gained bullpen flexibility with the move, the Padres already lost Kirby Yates and has yet to re-sign Trevor Rosenthal.

    San Diego is still capable of competing with the Dodgers in the NL West. But it just got a whole lot harder.

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Winner: Dodgers-Padres Rivalry

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    On that last point, the blossoming rivalry between the Dodgers and Padres is developing into the best in baseball.

    The two teams came together to provide

    fireworks

    in the NLDS last October, with the Dodgers ultimately getting the best of the upstart Padres.

    San Diego general manager (and 

    recently named president of baseball operations

    ) A.J. Preller responded to his team’s breakout season by making aggressive plays for Snell, Darvish and Musgrove while adding top international signee Ha-Seong Kim. Now, Friedman and the Dodgers have counterpunched by signing Bauer.

    Not only does this feel like front-office warfare, but it also brings yet another one of baseball’s most notable characters into the rivalry.

    Bauer and Buehler are as emphatic as they come on the mound. The same can be said for Padres stars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado at the dish. Can you imagine all the

    bat-flipping

    ,

    high-strutting

    goodness we are going to get this season? I’m practically salivating.

    San Diego’s early offseason additions already energized this NL West rivalry. But Bauer’s move to Los Angeles amplifies the intensity tenfold.

    The Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have one of the more storied rivalries in MLB history. However, baseball fans could be witnessing the birth of the next great grudge match.

Loser: Justin Turner

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Justin Turner could re-sign with L.A.

    Jeff Passan

    of ESPN reported the Dodgers were still in “talks” with Turner after the Bauer deal.

    But the 36-year-old infielder is not going to get the

    four-year deal

    he reportedly wanted, and his annual average value might have shrunk.

    Granted, the Dodgers likely would not have given Turner a four-year deal anyway. Still, the fact that Bauer could be on the hook for $45 million in 2022 likely changes the AAV Los Angeles would be willing to offer, especially if the team hopes to re-sign Corey Seager and Clayton Kershaw.

    Even with Seager, Kershaw and Kenley Jansen off the books next winter, Bauer’s salary would bring L.A.’s CBT payroll to about $125 million, per

    Roster Resource

    . That does not include Cody Bellinger’s arbitration salary, which should increase from this year’s $16.1 million. Figure other arbitration-eligible players into the mix, and there is not a whole lot of flexibility.

    Turner might have signed a longer deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, but they signed Marcus Semien to fill out the infield.

    The Milwaukee Brewers are still interested in Turner, per FanSided’s

    Robert Murray

    . But they might not be willing to spend as much after signing Kolten Wong.

    Jon Heyman

    of MLB Network reported Jan. 29 that the Atlanta Braves had interest, but they are all but certainly out after inking Marcell Ozuna to a four-year, $65 million deal that can reach $80 million, according to ESPN’s

    Jeff Passan

    .

    Turner’s market looks to be slightly smaller than it had been.

    And it looks like he may end up taking a shorter deal than he hoped, for less than he hoped.

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