2. Trevor Bauer, RHP Cinncinatti
This may come as a surprise to many Mariners fans. It has been a running joke for so long, we almost look at it as an inevitability. How many times have we used the phrase, ” future Mariner Trevor Bauer…”? It has been said quite a bit. And now, he’ll be a free agent this winter and we don’t think he’s their top target? Well, yes and no.
Allow me to explain. Would Bauer be a good addition to the rotation? Yes. Does Bauer have a relationship with several Mariners players, including Yusei Kikuchi? Yes. Isn’t Bauer one of the most analytically driven players in the world, a factor the Mariners seems to pursue in players? Yes, yes, and yes. So what gives?
Well, there are a few things about Bauer that may not make him the best fit for the Mariners. First and most importantly, Bauer is coming off a bad season in 2019. Well, relatively speaking. Bauer saw his ERA jump 2 full runs in 2019 and his FIP jumped 1.9 runs as well. Bauer’s groundball rate dropped 7% and his HR/FB rate jumped 2.5 times above his 2018 numbers.
Bauer also saw his strikeouts go down slightly and his walks go up slightly and both his fastball and slider went from good to mediocre in a 1-year span. The question teams will have to ask is whether 2018 is the outlier. And if it is, Bauer is a lot closer to a #3 than he is a #1. 2020 was going to be a big season for the 29-year-old to regain some of his value back, but thanks to the delay of the season, he won’t get that same opportunity.
The other issue surrounding Bauer is his declaration that he will only be signing 1-year deals once he becomes a free agent. I applaud the bold strategy, but if this is true, how much sense does it make for the Mariners to sign him for 2021, a year where they may not be ready to truly compete, instead of waiting for one off-season and signing him in 2022, when their playoff odds should greatly improve?
Sure, Bauer could like the situation and could conceivably sign concurrent 1-year deals, but it is still going to be a bit of an issue for the team. I think signing Bauer to a 1-year deal is fine, but it would almost certainly require spending more to try and make 2021 a playoff season. Bauer is still a good pitcher and is a fun character to have around.
If he does sign with the Mariners, I’d be happy. But those nagging thoughts laid out would still be in the back of your mind. But hey, we have him as the #2 target on our list, so clearly, we like him quite a lot.