Bauer’s likeliest landing spots, ranked

November 6th, 2020

Free-agent season is upon us! This will be a free-agent season unlike any other, which makes sense, following a season unlike any other. You can’t expect things to start getting normal now.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be taking regular looks at the top free agents, their top suitors … and ranking ‘em. There are plenty of teams who want the top-tier options, the platinum plan, the Glengarry leads. But who’s most likely to sign them? That’s the goal of the Free Agency Power Rankings: To give you our best guess.

We begin with . When you put aside the whole "global pandemic" business, Bauer couldn’t have picked a better time to have the best year of his career. He was incredible with Cincinnati, leading the National League in both ERA and WHIP and looking absolutely dominant in his postseason appearance, throwing 7 2/3 shutout innings while striking out 12 and walking none. If you need a No. 1 starter -- and of course, every team does -- the only one on the market is Bauer.

His personality can be … well, let’s call it “polarizing,” which makes you wonder if some of these potential deals may be for more money but for fewer years. But you never know; it’s gonna be an unusual offseason.

For now, though, let’s make some Bauer predictions. Let’s make some Trevor Bauer Power Rankings.

1. Yankees
First off, he and his old college teammate Gerrit Cole have apparently made up after some troubles in the past, so that’s out of the way. The Yankees clearly desperately want another top-shelf starter, and, as always, they are the Yankees, so they are part of the conversation for most top free agents. And honestly, wouldn’t Bauer be a one-man stimulus package to our nation’s flagging tabloid back-page industry? There’d be some sort of flame war every day. It feels wrong to deny us this in our time of need.

2. Red Sox
It is fair to say the Red Sox could use some help in the rotation. They have also shed some payroll over the past year, which makes them match up perfectly with Bauer: A team that needs a bit of a restart, has cash to spend and needs a starter as much as any team in the sport needs anything. And if you think Bauer would cause a stir in New York, imagine him interacting with Boston sports radio.

3. Dodgers
Perhaps no big-market team seems more perfectly matched for Bauer’s analytically minded approach than the Dodgers (though the Yankees are pretty good at that stuff, it must be said). Signing him would be very much of the Mookie Betts school of stacking a superstar atop an already great team, and it would make that rotation downright terrifying. And because Bauer’s almost 30, it’s not like he’s going to require an eight-year deal or something. If the Dodgers can outpay everyone for, say, three or four years, that gives them a definitive advantage. I bet he irritates Clayton Kershaw a few times, though.

4. Reds
Bauer had the best year of his career with the Reds, so it’s clearly a fit. Bauer isn’t going to get a Cole-like deal, so the Reds might be able to play in this ballpark. And the Reds still feel like they are contenders in the NL Central, and thus are highly incentivized to hang on to their ace. They may need a couple of contenders to fade to get to this point. But it could absolutely happen.

5. Padres
The Padres have clearly built something potentially lasting, but if there’s anything they’re missing, it’s a true No. 1 starter -- at least until Mike Clevinger (a friend of Bauer’s from their Cleveland days) can stay healthy and strong for a full year. Bauer would be the anchor of a rotation with a lot of upside in the years to come … and between him and Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres would become the absolute epicenter of baseball hot takes for the next half-decade.

6. Angels
It would help if the Angels hired a general manager soon. But it’s pretty clear that the first item on that GM's agenda will be “starting pitching,” followed by “starting pitching,” “starting pitching” and “seriously, how many times do I have to keep writing ‘starting pitching’ on this agenda for you?” You don’t need some radical new plan to save the Angels to know that this team isn’t going anywhere without better starting pitching.

7. Twins
The Twins have had everything going for a couple of years now, but the starting pitching just hasn’t quite been enough.

8. Mets
They’ve got a new owner, they basically have a Rotation of One and they still consider themselves contenders. If the Mets want to make a big splash, signing Bauer and J.T. Realmuto would be quite a way to do so.

9. Phillies
It feels like the bullpen is probably the better way to go here, but the Phillies are at a crossroads. Is Bauer the piece that gets them back on track, or throwing good money after bad?

Other possibilities:

Blue Jays: Is Canada ready for him?
Braves: They saw in the postseason how hard he is to hit.
Giants: Is it a year too early for them to be aggressive?
Nationals: As if the rotation weren’t exhausting enough already.
White Sox: Oh man, he and Tony La Russa would be quite a combo.

Next week: J.T. Realmuto.