Trevor Bauer is probably the most polarizing individual in baseball right now, but even when you factor in a relatively underwhelming 2019 campaign, FanGraphs says that he's been the sixth-best pitcher in the sport since the start of the 2018 season.
That means that when he hits free agency this winter, he'll be a coveted asset for teams that feel they are a piece or two away from being a World Series contender.
Bauer, who will turn 30 in January, has previously suggested that he only wanted to sign one-year contracts throughout his career. However, after a season that has him in the running for the National League Cy Young Award, Rachel Luba, his agent, made the following declaration: "We are open to & will be considering ALL types of deals."
John Harper of SNY spoke to multiple anonymous baseball people this week, who thought the seven-year/$245 million deal that Stephen Strasburg signed to stay with the Washington Nationals last offseason could be a fair comp. Of course, Bauer isn't the reigning World Series MVP, and a year later the Strasburg extension looks pretty bleak. But the larger point here is that if Bauer gets an offer of five or more years at $30+ million per season, it's hard to imagine him turning that down and insisting on a one-year deal. But who knows exactly what Bauer will do.
What we do know is that Bauer appears likely to price his way out of Cincinnati this offseason, and it's interesting to think about his fit - both on and off the field - for a few major-market teams:
Chicago White Sox
Bauer has a 3.56 ERA in 11 career games at Guaranteed Rate Field, having quite a bit of familiarity with the White Sox after spending parts of seven seasons in Cleveland. The White Sox do have to make a decision this offseason on whether they'll mount an attempt to retain closer Alex Colomé, but after going 35-25 in 2020, it's pretty clear that their lineup is ready to compete for a World Series. Adding Bauer into a starting rotation that already includes Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel would probably make the White Sox the favorite to win the American League Central in 2021, and potentially make a deep playoff run.
Los Angeles Angels
On the latest episode of "Big Time Baseball," RADIO.COM MLB Insider Bob Nightengale suggested that he thought that the Angels were the perfect fit for Bauer, and he may be on to something. With Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, the Angels have a lineup built to win right now. However, the same can't be said about Joe Maddon's starting rotation, which lacks a No. 1 starter. The addition of Bauer wouldn't make the Angels a better team than the Oakland Athletics, but would make them a more competitive team in the American League West and American League playoff landscape as a whole. Considering he is a former star at UCLA, the Angels could be a very good geographic fit for Bauer.
New York Yankees
Among other teams he's done this with, Bauer tweeted "Kinda looks like the Yankees could use some more starting pitching. Interesting," on Oct. 7. Was Bauer mostly just being a troll in tweeting this? Of course. Would his presence on the Yankees' starting rotation improve the team's chances of winning their first World Series since 2009? Absolutely. The thing is, there's quite a few reasons to believe he's probably not likely to end up in the Bronx. First and foremost, Bauer and Gerrit Cole, former teammates at UCLA, have a poor relationship. Secondly, the Yankees have decisions to make on DJ LeMaheiu, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and Zack Britton this offseason, all while potentially trying to cut costs to make up for lost revenue during the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
Even after a very disappointing 2020 season, the Phillies will have their work cut out attempting to tread water this offseason, with both J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius set to reach free agency. However, RADIO.COM MLB Insider has said that the Phillies have some level of "pessimism" about their chances to re-sign Realmuto, with him adding that he wouldn't be surprised if the Phillies pivot to Bauer. A three-headed monster of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Bauer would be pretty imposing, though with no general manager in place currently and managing partner John Middleton expressing uncertainty about the team's financial capabilities this winter, we're not sure if the Phillies will hand out a megadeal this offseason should they lose Realmuto.
New York Mets
Assuming Steve Cohen is ultimately pushed through as the next owner of the New York Mets, he'll become the wealthiest owner in terms of net worth - $14.6 billion, per Forbes - in the sport. There's some who believe, and many Mets fans that hope, he'll immediately become aggressive on the free-agent market this offseason. Though the Mets have been more speculated upon as a landing spot for J.T. Realmuto, signing Bauer would give the Mets a pretty nasty one-two punch at the top of the rotation with Jacob deGrom. The rotation could become even scarier if Noah Syndergaard finally reaches his full potential in 2021, as he returns from Tommy John surgery. Perhaps Cohen could be even more drawn to make a push for Bauer if he feels that he'll otherwise land with the division-rival Phillies or in-city rival Yankees.