The Phillies spent over $700 million on free agents the last three offseasons. Spending all over baseball could be impacted this winter by revenues lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that's not going to stop us from taking a daily look these next few weeks at some free agents who would fill needs and help the Phillies get better.
Today: Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer
Career to date
Bauer was the third overall selection in the 2011 draft, going two picks after his UCLA teammate Gerrit Cole. Cole has had four top five Cy Young finishes in his career; Bauer won the big prize in the National League for the Cincinnati Reds this season and is now in the place where Cole was a year ago as the top starting pitcher on the free-agent market. Bauer had consistency issues earlier in his career, but two of his last three seasons have been stellar. He finished sixth in the American League Cy Young voting with Cleveland in 2018. He is 75-64 with a 3.90 ERA in his career. Intelligent, free-spirited, outspoken and sometimes rebellious, Bauer is one of most interesting characters in baseball. Cleveland had enough of his antics and traded him away. Cincinnati loved him and would like to re-sign him. No player in baseball is more devoted to analytics and techno-based training. In those ways, Bauer is a new-schooler who generates elite spin rate on his pitches. In other ways, he’s an old-schooler with a competitive streak a mile wide. He showed that with a willingness to pitch on short rest down the stretch for the Reds in 2020.
Bauer went 5-4 with an NL-best 1.73 ERA in 11 starts. He tossed two shutouts and led the league in WHIP (0.795) and fewest hits per nine innings (5.1). He struck out 12.3 batters per nine innings and walked just 2.1 per nine. He became the first Cincinnati pitcher to win the Cy Young Award.
How he’d impact the Phillies
Hate to be a bucket of cold water, but the Phillies are not expected to be players for Bauer. They played in the deep end of the free-agent pool the last couple of winters and if they do so this winter it will only be to retain J.T. Realmuto. The Phils are about to hire one of Bauer’s Cincinnati pitching coaches – Caleb Cotham will be named new Phillies pitching coach in the coming days – but Bauer won’t be following him to Philadelphia. Still, it’s fun to fantasize about adding Bauer to a group that already features Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. That would give the Phillies one of the best rotations in baseball. At least in fantasyland.
Bauer has talked about pitching on one-year contracts throughout his career. While that shows the confidence he possesses in himself, he won’t need to do that. He turns 30 in January. He’s healthy. He’s getting better and he’s dedicated to continuing that trend. He should be able to land a five-year deal worth at least $25 million per season. Two California teams, the Padres, whose championship window is opening, and the Angels, who desperately need to add pitching before Mike Trout’s prime ticks away, are expected to be in on Bauer. So are the Mets, who believe Bauer’s big personality and big right arm will play well on Broadway and, gulp, in the National League East.
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