Trevor Bauer joins Dodgers on record deal

February 11th, 2021

For years, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers have looked for ways to be opportunistic and add elite free agents to shorter-term deals. Friedman and Co. made a run at Bryce Harper in 2019 and Gerrit Cole before last season.

While the Dodgers were unable to convince either Cole or Harper to take their talents to Los Angeles, they remained patient, believing they would find a way to strike in future offseasons. That patience paid off in a big way on Friday.

The Dodgers won the sweepstakes, as the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner agreed to a three-year, $102 million deal, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Bauer has opt-outs after each of his first two years, sources told MLB.com, and he will be paid $40 million in 2021 and $45 million in ’22. He’ll become the highest-paid player in Major League history in ‘21 and again in ‘22.

The deal pushes the Dodgers’ payroll close to $240 million, blowing past the $210 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold, meaning Los Angeles would have to pay a 20% tax on all overages. For the next $20 million over $230 million, the Dodgers would be taxed 32%.

“Last season doesn’t matter anymore,” Bauer said in his YouTube video announcing the move. “Come April, what matters is this team, this group of players, this group of fans and the name across our chests. This season is about making sure history remembers us as we wish to be remembered. This season is about adding to our legacy. And I can’t wait, Dodger fans.”

Bauer’s market didn’t take shape as many expected, but there was always a lot of interest between the two sides, especially if the right-hander was open to a shorter-term deal. The Mets, the other finalist for Bauer, reportedly offered him more years and the same opt-out deal, but Bauer ultimately decided to join the Dodgers.

The opportunity to win a World Series in his hometown played a big role for Bauer, who went to Hart High School in Santa Clarita and played college baseball at UCLA.

Bauer, 30, is coming off his best season in the big leagues. He posted a 1.73 ERA and struck out 100 batters in 73 innings. Bauer also has plenty of postseason and World Series experience, having made 10 playoff appearances with the Indians and one with the Reds. In the NL Wild Card Series against the Braves last year, Bauer allowed just two hits and struck out 12 over 7 2/3 innings.

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Bauer will look to prove that the 2020 season wasn’t a fluke. He has a career 3.90 ERA and has pitched at least 200 innings in a season only once in his career.

There are questions surrounding Bauer off the field, mostly because of his social media presence. Two years ago, Bauer got into a back-and-forth with a college student, who said she had been harassed by Bauer’s fans following the incident.

Shortly thereafter, Bauer tweeted: “I often defend myself against internet trolling, bullying and slander. My responses to fans are good-natured. I do not encourage any of my fans, followers or friends to attack, insult or harass anyone on any social media platform, or in real life. There is no room for that in the world. I have been made aware that some of the interactions related to a specific Twitter exchange may have had a negative impact. That was not my intention. I will wield the responsibility of my public platform more responsibly in the future.”

This past summer, there was another incident in which Bauer got into a Twitter spat with a reporter, and the reporter was harassed by Bauer’s fans in the aftermath.

It’s unclear how much the Dodgers looked into the matter. However, a handful of Dodgers players have shown their support of the signing. 

“I appreciate him for speaking out the way he has over the years because when people were calling him crazy for some of the things he was saying, turns out they were pretty much true,” Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen said on MLB Network Radio, referring to Bauer’s impact on pitching philosophy and training.

“I’m pumped. … The way he approaches the game on a mental aspect, developing pitches aspect, because that fits in perfectly with what the Dodgers are doing.”

Even with some unknowns, the addition of Bauer gives the Dodgers perhaps the best rotation in the Majors and makes them the clear favorites to win the NL West. He joins Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and David Price. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are also available and could start the season out of the bullpen. Josiah Gray, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Dodgers’ top prospect, is also an option.