Before the Cincinnati Reds acquired right-handed starting pitcher Trevor Bauer from Cleveland at the trade deadline in 2019, it was already known that he was planning to sign 1-year contracts every season moving forward. He was on the record with that fact. Things haven’t changed since his arrival in a new organization. Bauer explained his reasoning behind the idea on his youtube channel late on Monday night. For the Reds, this is kind of a big deal.
Update: the video has been made “private” and is no longer available. But since I began writing this on Monday night, I had already transcribed a few quotes from the video.
“I want to be able to be happy playing the game that I love. So I want to end up in situations that make me happy and make me fulfilled. That can be situations like the Reds have, where there’s just a really great group of people that just make me fulfilled as a person,” said Bauer.
If the quote stopped there it would be great news to the organization, and probably to many fans who would like to see him stick around in the rotation for a while longer. But the quote didn’t end there.
“That can be situations like jumping into a team that’s going to go on a playoff run and hopefully win a World Series. That can be a team that would let me pitch every 4th day or treats me with respect in a way that no other team has. Or whatever the case is – there’s certain things that are more important to me than money. And I want to be able to control where I play and when and the situations I’m in so that as I change too, and things become more important to me, or less important to me as I evolve that I can tailor fit my situation to reflect that.”
Winning certainly seems important to Bauer, as it is for nearly every high-level athlete. “I want to be on a contender every year because I love competing at the highest level and the highest level is the World Series,” he said. “So I want to have a chance to go to the World Series every single year. And the way baseball is currently structured, there’s not many teams that go into spring training trying to win the World Series that year.”
When it comes to the Reds, this could certainly be a real interesting situation. Cincinnati hasn’t won in a long time. But the approach of not exactly trying to really win stopped in the winter of 2018. While the 2019 season didn’t go as planned, a healthy squad that would have included Alex Wood and Scooter Gennett, along with a normal-performing Yasiel Puig would have made for a very different looking squad in the first half of the season. But things just didn’t work out that way. Wood and Gennett did get injured, and Puig didn’t perform like himself.
Undeterred, the Cincinnati front office went out at the deadline and acquired Trevor Bauer despite being out of the race in July. In the offseason they went out and spent money like they had never done before on the free agent market. Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama came first. Then the Reds went out and picked up Nick Castellanos and Wade Miley. The offseason may not have gone exactly as everyone had hoped (where are you Francisco Lindor?), but it went well. And those improvements led to the Reds being the favorite to win the division by multiple projection systems and baseball writers around the sports landscape.
We still don’t know if we’re going to even see baseball in 2020. The teams hope we do. The fans hope we do. And the players do. For the Reds and Trevor Bauer, it could potentially mean that his 10 starts last year could have been the last ones for Cincinnati. He seems to like the people with the Reds, as he noted above. But it’s tougher to sell someone on Cincinnati being a true World Series contender if they don’t get out on the field in 2020 and show that their new additions made a real difference. It kind of puts both sides in a bit of a strange spot.
For the Reds, they have to try and convince Trevor Bauer to return in 2021. To do that they need to sell him on the idea that they are a true contender. While you can point to pairing him back with the rotation featuring Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, and you can point to Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suarez at the plate (and perhaps Nick Castellanos, too, if he doesn’t opt out). But you’re asking for faith more than some other teams that can point to 90+ wins with most of their team returning, too. The Reds could use baseball being played to show that, “hey we are the real deal” and use it as more of a selling point than just “we think we can be the real deal”.