Two days ago, starting pitcher Trevor Bauer was officially announced as the newest member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Bauer and the Dodgers agreed to a massive contract that will pay Bauer up to $102 million over 3 years but Bauer can opt out after the first or second year of the deal. If Bauer opts out after the 2021 season, he will earn a total of $40 million. If Bauer opts in for the 2022 season but opts out after the conclusion of the season, he will earn a total of $85 million. The most likely scenario is that Bauer opts out of his contract after the conclusion of the 2022 season. This signing definitely has many potential impacts and there are a few potential winners and losers that stand out to me.
The 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers
Fresh off winning the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers have put themselves in a great spot to repeat in 2021. Especially after third basemen Justin Turner resigned with the team, the Dodgers lineup is deadly and is probably the best in Major League Baseball. On top of their deadly lineup, the Dodgers entire pitching staff was amazing prior to signing Bauer but it became better after Bauer was brought in. Although I don’t expect Bauer to be as good as he was in 2020, he will probably be a well above average pitcher forming a top-notch big three alongside Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. Additionally, the Dodgers’ strong bullpen became even stronger. With Bauer and David Price (opted out of the 2020 season) joining the team in 2021, two of Julio Urias, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin (likely the latter of the three) will be joining the bullpen barring any injuries. Besides bringing a quality arm to the Dodgers, Bauer has opened up a great amount of depth and potential versatility both within the rotation and bullpen which will be beneficial come October.
The New York Mets
Although they weren’t able to will Bauer to their team, the Mets are still a winner. After the conclusion of the 2021 season, star players Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto are both set to become free agents. If the Mets had signed Bauer, the team most likely would only bring back one of the two whereas they now have the flexibility to resign both. While Bauer certainly would’ve been a great addition to the Mets rotation, I think prioritizing Lindor and Conforto extensions was the better decision (assuming that happens). Additionally, starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman are set to become free agents after the 2021 season. Both Syndergaard and Stroman are pretty comparable to Bauer when they’re healthy and I’d expect the team to resign at least one of the two (at a much lower clip than what they would’ve given Bauer) in addition to Lindor and Conforto. Even without Bauer in 2021, the Mets have one of the best starting pitching staffs in Major League Baseball which at full health consists of Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Syndergaard, Stroman, and David Peterson/Joey Lucchesi.
The next wave of star free agents
The 2021-2022 free agent class is loaded with the likes of Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado (player option), Mark Canha, Michael Conforto, Trevor Bauer (unlikely that he declines player option, however), Clayton Kershaw, and Max Scherzer among many others. Bauer’s contract not only could set the tone for what some of these players will seek annually but how creative they might be. It has been a rarity for a player to receive a player option after each year of their contract but it could become a new normal if other players liked that aspect of Bauer’s contract. I’m expecting Bauer’s contract to have a domino effect on the top players from the 2021-2022 free agent class which will then have a continuous domino effect for years of free agent classes to come.
National League postseason teams and the rest of the NL West
As I mentioned earlier, the Dodgers now have a top-notch big three starting pitching staff consisting of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Trevor Bauer. Assuming the 2021 regular season goes according to plan and the Dodgers don’t suffer any major injuries, rival NL West teams will play against the Dodgers in a little bit more than 10% of their games. This is not ideal for any of these teams as they will all see a healthy dose of the big three starting pitching staff as well as the all around star-studded Dodgers. Additionally, it probably won’t be much fun for opposing teams facing the Dodgers in the postseason (assuming the Dodgers do make the postseason). No matter if it’s a winner take all Wild Card game, a best of 5 Divisional Series matchup, or a best of 7 Championship Series/World Series, the Dodgers are an extremely dangerous team from top to bottom.
The tenures of some of the Dodgers current core as Dodgers
At the moment, the Dodgers’ estimated 2021 payroll is $252 million via RosterSource on Fangraphs. In the coming years Clayton Kershaw (after 2021), Corey Seager (after 2021), Walker Buehler (after 2022), Cody Bellinger (after 2023), and Julio Urias (after 2023) are all set to reach free agency. Although the Dodgers are a big market team, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to retain all of these players considering some of the contracts they already have to pay in addition to some of the extensions they will probably hand out and the free agents they bring in. When Dodgers legend Clayton Kershaw was asked whether or not he wants an extension with the team, he replied “I don’t know. Honestly, I wish I had an answer.” While it is definitely too soon to see if there is any truth to this, it signifies that potential change could be coming to the Dodgers’ current core over the next few years.