Trevor Bauer posted a video to his YouTube channel, explaining what will and won’t be important to him as he makes his free agency decision. Are the Blue Jays listening?
Trevor Bauer is the top free agent pitcher on the market this offseason and as such there will be a ton of speculation about where he will choose to ply his trade for the duration of his next contract. Some rumours have suggested that he is looking to get the highest annual average salary for a starting pitcher, and others suggest he is looking to play on the west coast. Still others say he is looking for one-year deals, although that may be an idea of the past.
According to Trevor Bauer himself, geography will not be a major factor in his decision, nor will market size. He specifically mentioned that he wants to be happy, he wants to play for a team that can win, and he wants to join an organization that will be understanding of his ventures to grow his brand outside of baseball and money.
One of the things that will make Bauer happy according to his video is a team that will listen to and potentially entertain the idea of letting him pitch every fourth day instead of every fifth day. On New Years Eve, Bauer posted a video saying that he was meeting with the Jays pitching coach and head of the team’s high performance department. Presumably that would mean Pete Walker and Angus Mugford.
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Bauer explained that he has been a very analytical and data driven player since as far back as his minor league days in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He says that the perception of him as difficult is untrue and gives an example of how he used to use weighted balls in his training -years before it was an accepted method – but the idea was rejected outright by the Diamondbacks.
Trevor Bauer says he is looking for a true partnership with the team he joins. That he wants that team to be understanding of his training practices and data driven approach. He believes that his knowledge of analytics can also help a team and he wants to be able to share his ideas to help the organization. One of those ideas is pitching every fourth day, and according to his video, he fully understands that logistically it is not something that would be easy to accommodate, but he wants his new team to at least be willing to entertain the idea.
The Blue Jays may very well be a team that could offer Bauer the ability to pitch on that schedule or something close to it. Currently the Blue Jays have a rotation that would consist of ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, recently re signed Robbie Ray, stud to be Nate Pearson, Trent Thornton and Tanner Roark. I believe the front office will still add at least two starters to that group, and if Trevor Bauer is one of them, this is how they could potentially make his every fourth day schedule a reality.
Most starting pitchers start around 30 to 32 games in a season. The 200 inning threshold is something that a lot of pitchers pride themselves to try to reach in a given season. A pitcher that has thirty starts in a season and averages 6.2 innings per start will finish the year with exactly 200 innings pitched. However, over the past few seasons we have begun to see a shift away from teams allowing pitchers to go deep into games or to see a lineup the third time through. Could this shift actually play a role in allowing Bauer to pitch every fourth day, and could that be a positive for the rest of the Blue Jays rotation, as well as their bullpen usage?
Ryu is the undisputed ace of the staff and I don’t think that changes if Trevor Bauer signs with the team even he does end up making much more money per season. The 60-game season in 2020 may have been a blessing for Ryu as he has a tendency to hit the injured list, and last year may have provided him a chance to remain healthier for longer going forward. Having said that, his velocity was down in his lone playoff start, and having a pitcher that is ready and willing to step up on short notice could go a long way in keeping Ryu’s arm fresh. If the team feels that Ryu needs an extra day of rest, Bauer would slot in on three days rest and Ryu would pitch on the sixth day instead of his regularly scheduled fifth day, potentially allowing him to go further into those games.
A Trevor Bauer signing may also allow Ross Atkins and his front office to target a pitcher like James Paxton or Corey Kluber, a high upside starter with an injury history. The extra rest theory also holds true for both of these options.
Another pitcher that could benefit from Bauer’s willingness to pitch every fourth day would be Nate Pearson. Since being drafted by the Blue Jays in 2017, Pearson has reached the 100 inning plateau just once in 2019. This shortened season didn’t help him build up his inning limit, nor did the injury he suffered. He pitched a total of just 18 innings in 2020. I don’t really see a way that Pearson can go more than 140 innings in 2021 and it may be closer to 120. Trevor Bauer could actually help in more ways than one with regards to Pearson. First, he would allow the team to skip starts for Pearson during the season if they wanted to go that way. Second, and maybe the ideal reason to entertain Bauer pitching every fourth day, would be to piggy back Bauer and Pearson at certain times during the season.
Bauer could essentially pitch 40 games in 2021 and instead of going six or seven innings per start, he could go five innings per outing, giving him the same 200 inning total for the season. Obviously that comes with some caveats, if he is pitching a no hitter Charlie Montoyo should keep him in, they could give him an extra day of rest later in the week. Pearson could potentially get 20 starts and 10 relief appearances behind Bauer, averaging 4 to 5 innings per appearance, giving him anywhere between 120 and 150 total innings. The other benefit to this setup is that it would allow the bullpen to get rest throughout the season, something that was hard to come by in the pandemic shortened 60 game season.
Although I won’t speculate on what a contract for Trevor Bauer might look like, as I believe he has so many ways to go about putting himself in his ideal situation. Whether that is a contract that comes with an opt out after every single year, or a short term deal that may pay him the highest AAV for a pitcher, I am not sure. But after watching him explain what is important for him and the more I think about it, the Blue Jays may be a perfect fit for Trevor Bauer in free agency.