Trevor Bauer is the top free agent pitcher on the board this offseason and he's been enjoying himself along the way by teasing every fanbase around Major League Baseball. Bauer is the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner after a brilliant 2020 campaign and is looking to cash in big time as teams scramble to secure his services.
In 11 games this season, the 30-year-old righty was 5-4 with a sparkling 1.73 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 73 innings. He was positively dominant in the shortened campaign. Bauer might take a one-year contract to continue to maximize his per-season value and could earn upwards of $30 million a year.
What follows is a look at the five best fits for Bauer as he sifts through all of his options.
1. New York Mets
The Mets want to spend under new owner Steve Cohen and Bauer has been openly flirting with Cohen and the team's fanbase. George Springer and J.T. Realmuto are both on the Mets' shopping list this winter, but Bauer looks like a target too. Given the pieces already in place in New York's rotation, he could be a perfect addition.
Bauer could join two-time NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom to create baseball's best one-two punch. Noah Syndergaard is returning from Tommy John surgery with something to prove and Marcus Stroman accepted New York's qualifying offer and will be back. Lefty David Peterson had a solid debut in 2020 and Steven Matz is still around for now. That's a lot of high-end talent for one rotation.
If Cohen is serious about spending money and winning as quickly as possible, a deal with Bauer makes a ton of sense. The right-hander would get big-time exposure in MLB's biggest market and land with a team full of pitching talent.
2. San Diego Padres
Let's keep in mind this is about fit, not necessarily what will happen. With Bauer's buddy Mike Clevinger out for 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Padres are once again in search of an ace. They thought they had solved that problem when they traded for Clevinger at the deadline, but now they're on the prowl for pitching again.
Bauer could fill that role atop the rotation next to 2020 breakout star Dinelson Lamet -- though we're not sure he'll be healthy either. He'd helm a rotation that also includes Chris Paddack, Zach Davies, and could feature any number of high-end young arms like Luis Patino, MacKenzie Gore, Adrian Morejon and Ryan Weathers. If two of those kids step up and the Padres add Bauer, they could have a lights-out group to go along with their prolific offense. That would surely get the Dodgers nervous.
Here's the rub: the Padres have already spent a ton of money to build their roster and still need to lock up Fernando Tatis Jr. long-term. The $30 million Bauer is looking for would probably be much better spent going toward securing Tatis up for the next decade. It's really easy to slot Bauer in at Petco Park, but it doesn't seem plausible at that price.
3. New York Yankees
Oh yeah, this is a fit. Bauer wants a bigger spotlight and there's none bigger than toeing the slab at Yankee Stadium in pinstripes. Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and James Paxton are all hitting free agency and Luis Severino is coming off Tommy John surgery, so the Yankees need pitching badly. They've also got some cash to throw around this offseason as they're projected 2021 payroll will be around $90 million less than the pre-COVID total from 2020.
The Yankees spent big on Gerrit Cole last year, locking up the righty to a nine-year, $324 million deal. Could they bring in his UCLA teammate 12 months later? It's worth noting that Cole and Bauer do not get along and that feud/rivalry reaches back to their days in college. Whatever happened between them festered and Bauer even accused the Astros of using illegal substances to enhance spin rate when Cole was in Houston. It wouldn't be shocking if Cole told the Yankees he couldn't share a rotation with Bauer.
Frankly, the feud with Cole is the only reason the Yankees aren't No. 1 on this list. They have everything Bauer is looking for: money, a big spotlight and a contending team in need of pitching. He could get a huge payday and raise his profile even more.
4. Los Angeles Angels
This scenario sees Bauer heading back to his native California and joining the big-spending Angels as they try to finally get Mike Trout back to the postseason. The Angels could fit Bauer's salary demands and stay under the luxury tax but it would make other moves difficult. But it would certainly be worth it as the Angels desperately need pitching. And Albert Pujols' massive deal comes off the books after the 2021 campaign.
In 2020, LA's starters had the second-worst ERA in baseball (5.52) and the staff as a whole ranked 25th (5.09). Dylan Bundy is coming off a career year and Griffin Canning looks solid, but the rest of the group is up in the air. And we still don't know what the future holds for Shohei Ohtani, who was coming off Tommy John surgery, then pitched only 1.2 innings in 2020 before shutting things down.
The Angels have invested heavily in their offense. Trout and Anthony Rendon are expensive, big-time bats, while David Fletcher is a solid top of the order guy. Jo Adell should hit soon, Jared Walsh was a nice surprise in 2020 and maybe Justin Upton will find some life left in his swing. Sadly, Pujols is limping to the finish of his storied career. Still there's enough offense here to win with a good pitching staff.
Bauer could be the guy to lead the pitching turnaround for the Angels. He could help galvanize the staff and finally help push Trout to the postseason.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, you read that right, the Blue Jays will be legit contenders for Bauer. This is a franchise ready to take the next step, especially with a crop of young, cheap players and a need for a true ace. Toronto was a playoff team in 2020 but was knocked out in the Wild Card round by the Tampa Bay Rays. If the franchise doesn't want that to happen again it will have to spend some money.
Hyun-Jin Ryu was excellent in 2020, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.69 ERA, but the rest of the rotation was a dud. Toronto's starters ranked 17th in ERA leaguewide (4.55). Former first-rounder Nate Pearson has a big arm and looks legit, but the rest of the rotation is full of question marks. Bauer could be the solution.
Toronto has a bunch of young, cheap bats led by Teoscar Hernandez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel and Bo Bichette. It's an offense that needs to be backed up by competent pitching. Trevor Bauer could be the guy to light a charge in the Blue Jays' pitching staff.