When the Cincinnati Reds traded for right-handed starting pitcher Trevor Bauer one of the concerns that came up was that he was only under contract through the 2020 season. Some were wondering aloud whether or not the team could sign him to an extension – but those who had paid attention to the Trevor Bauer show (love it or hate it) over the years already knew the answer. Most of Cincinnati found out that answer on Monday when the local media asked about it.
“I do intend to sign one year contracts for my entire career,” Bauer said when asked if he could see himself in Cincinnati long-term. “I’m not against signing with the same team by any means. The reasoning behind that is that I want to be on a contender.”
This is something that Trevor Bauer has stated publicly before. It’s not new, or surprising to those who have followed along for the ride. But for many Reds fans, this may be news. Cincinnati’s front office knew this before they made the trade. And with that information they also knew and understood that if they want to keep him around beyond his current deal that they can. Maybe.
But if the Reds have any real hopes of keeping Trevor Bauer around beyond 2020 the first thing they must do is surround him with more talent. And they certainly seem like they are trying. The rotation, as it stands right now, is as strong as it’s been in nearly a decade. Luis Castillo showed all that he was capable of last night as he dominated the Angels in a win. Sonny Gray was an All-Star this season and he’s pitching well. Bauer is an above-average starter. Anthony DeSclafani’s been slightly above-average this year. Alex Wood is around for now, but he’s a free agent following this season. But overall, the rotation looks to be in fairly good shape moving forward even if the front office should plan on adding some arms to it.
The offense/defense is where things get a little more dicey for the Reds. Right now they seem to be taking a look at a few options at a few positions. Guys like Josh VanMeter, Aristides Aquino, Phillip Ervin – they’re getting some looks. Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Nick Senzel – they are your every day three. Jesse Winker will probably play most days, but it’s pretty clear he’s not going to see action if a left-hander is on the mound. Behind the plate the team has several options when everyone is healthy. But it seems that everyone agrees – the Reds offense needs another reliable bat that they can put in the middle of the order. This season they hoped it was Yasiel Puig. But his slow start, along with that of nearly the entire team, didn’t let that come to fruition until it was too late.
That sort of begs the question, though. Will the Reds be willing to spend the money to acquire the kind of bat it seems everyone thinks they need to get the lineup where it needs to be? And if they are, and it does what they hope, will they be able to also afford to keep Trevor Bauer around, even if he wants to come back?
There hasn’t really been a guy out there willing to take the 1-year offer that’s been as good as Bauer has. It kind of makes him a bit of a unicorn. He might not be worth that $30M a year pricetag if you have to sign up for that price for 5 years. But what if you only have to commit to that price for 1 year? It changes the entire risk dynamic for the team. Maybe the number isn’t $30M. But even if it’s only $20M, will the Reds have that kind of money to spend? Or maybe the better question is will they be willing to spend that money?
Being able to keep Trevor Bauer around beyond 2020 isn’t just a one step plan. The team has to win, and they have to be positioned to win in 2021, too. But to get to that 2021 phase, they are likely going to have to spend a whole lot of money. More than they’ve ever spent before – and probably by quite a bit. Time will tell if they are willing to do that or not, but this offseason could very well give us an indication. If they go out and add a bat for the middle of the order we may be able to dream a little bit more about the organization keeping a guy like Trevor Bauer around and in the rotation for 2021. But if they stick with what they have, or only make smaller moves, maybe that’s telling a little bit of a different story.