The biggest free agent on the market is talking about the White Sox.
Trevor Bauer is at the top of most White Sox fans’ winter wish lists. The team is openly on the hunt for starting pitching, and adding someone the caliber of Bauer would give the South Siders a championship-level 1-2-3 pitching punch.
But free agents read the news, too.
New White Sox manager Tony La Russa was already raising questions throughout the fan base before Monday night’s news that he was charged with a DUI the day before he was hired. The team admitted to knowing about the arrest prior to hiring him.
Already, one top free agent has weighed in. Marcus Stroman replied to tweets about La Russa and the White Sox, calling the hire “baffling on all measures” and writing that “no amount of money” could convince him to play for La Russa, pointing to the Hall-of-Fame manager’s past comments on athletes protesting the police killings of Black Americans, in addition to the news of the day.
Then it was Bauer's turn. The pitcher spent 20 minutes discussing the situation on his YouTube channel, though he shared none of the kind off-the-cuff takes so prevalent on social media. Wearing a T-shirt that read “call my agent,” he seemed to take an open-minded approach to La Russa, opting to reserve opinion until after gaining some personal experience.
“Do I think that (the DUI) will affect players signing there? Would it affect me, having a manager like that who has some issues off the field?” Bauer wondered. “It might. It might not.
“Generally speaking, I’ve been fairly forgiving until I meet someone in person and have them interact with me and judge their character for myself. I don’t like going based on anybody else’s judge of character. I like to actually meet someone and have a conversation. So I’m sure in my free agency, that process would be important to me.
“I can talk to the manager of whatever team I’m going to sign with and get to know him and understand what his principles are and how he manages, his style and stuff like that. I want to be happy wherever I choose to go, and that’s a big part of it because you interface with the manager every single day.”
While Bauer came nowhere close to shutting the door on potentially landing with the White Sox, he explained that other free agents could be turned off and that the consequences could be big for the team.
“As an organization, if any free agents are against (La Russa’s presence because of his DUI charge), then it really calls into question the effectiveness of a manager being able to lead your team forward,” Bauer said. “Because now you have, potentially, a player that you would like to sign not being willing to sign with you. If you lose out on that one free agent, that could be the difference between winning the World Series and not, making the playoffs and not.”
Bauer didn’t break much new ground in his analysis, listing potential concerns that White Sox fans have been voicing since before the team officially hired La Russa.
What is new, however, is that these possible concerns are being raised by the biggest free agent on the market, a guy that figures to be at or near the top of the White Sox list of potential targets.
As Bauer said in the video, it might not end up being a problem at all. In a hypothetical meeting with La Russa and White Sox brass, Bauer could completely buy into every aspect. He said he won’t know until he has that meeting.
But there are answers Bauer will be looking for, questions raised that might not apply to a different manager. And so the White Sox have some explaining to do if they’re going to land the offseason’s biggest free-agent fish.
“How’s (the personality of today’s players) going to fit with Tony La Russa, who hasn’t been in the game in that capacity in a good bit of time and who the vast majority of his managerial career took place in a much different landscape of the game?” Bauer queried. “Is he going to use analytics in a way that can help people who are analytically minded, players who think that way, move them forward? Is he going to be able to develop players in that realm? And is that even what the White Sox are trying to do? Do they want to go in that direction or not?
“I don’t know. I’m not part of the White Sox. Perhaps I will be at some point later this offseason. Perhaps I won’t. But these are all questions that you have to start thinking about when it comes to attracting free agents. These are questions that I’ll be asking teams.
“Having La Russa come on raises these questions, at least. These are questions that are going to have to be answered when they’re trying to attract free agents.”