Mets should make strong push for quirky Trevor Bauer
OK, so let’s take the New Normal out for a test drive today.
This is the New Normal for the Mets: There are no pipe dreams. There are no baseball ideas that make you double over in caution (or constipation) before you get halfway through the sentence. In the same way that most cars today don’t even bother with a cassette player — obsolete, don’t you know — the Mets no longer allow the word “monitoring” in the corporate lexicon when it comes to player acquisitions.
You may not be able to buy everything you want now — remember, Steve Cohen threw out that “drunken sailor” caveat on Tuesday — and there are still plenty of ballplayers who don’t necessarily see New York City as baseball’s land of milk and honey. It’s just that daring to dream no longer comes replete with a laugh track.
Today’s test drive:
What’s to like (baseball edition)?
Bauer is the top pitching asset on the market, and Wednesday night he capped a terrific 2020 season (1.73 ERA, 0.785 WHIP, 100 strikeouts in 73 innings) by succeeding Jacob deGrom as the National League’s Cy Young Award winner. He turns 30 on Jan. 17, and he is just entering his prime. In his playoff start against the Braves, he limited Atlanta to two hits and zero runs in 7²/₃ innings, striking out 12 — the Braves promptly went out and spent the next two weeks raking against the Marlins and Dodgers.
What’s not to like (baseball edition)
As brilliant as Bauer was in 2020, he was equally underwhelming just a year earlier — his 4.48 overall ERA blowing up to 6.39 in 10 starts for the Reds, to whom the Indians traded him at the deadline. He was an All-Star in 2018 (2.28 ERA) for Cleveland, but his four prior full seasons, the ERAs looked like this: 4.18, 4.55. 4.26, 4.19. Prior to this year, his ERA in five postseason starts for the Indians from 2016-18 was 6.07.
What’s to like (besides the right arm)?
Bauer is a unique personality, willing to speak his mind. He is unafraid to trade haymakers and make funny observations on Twitter (@BauerOutage), and has playfully tweaked several teams (not yet the Mets) about their possible need to add a front-line pitcher. He has a long-standing blood feud with Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, which could surely make things interesting if the pitchers are lined up on either side of the Subway Series. He is confident in the extreme.
What’s not to like (besides the right arm)?
Well … all of the above, if things go sideways. He is also — how do we say this nicely — an odd duck. He has a temper (famously heaving a ball over the center-field wall a few years ago after being removed from a game). He lasted a third of an inning of a playoff game in 2016 because he’d sliced open his pinky a few days before playing with a custom-made drone. He once tagged a fan 80 times in a week during a Twitter dispute.
OK. You’re Sandy Alderson. Why are you intrigued?
1. For the first time in years, the Mets enter an offseason pitching-poor in the rotation. DeGrom is the ace. Marcus Stroman is in board after agreeing to an $18.9 million qualifying offer. After that? Noah Syndergaard probably won’t be back until June. Do you trust David Peterson to take another step forward as a sophomore? Is Seth Lugo really a permanent starter?
2. If you can build a rotation in which two of every five starts you’re sending out the winners of the past three Cy Youngs, how do you say no?
3. His career track is definitely trending up.
OK. You’re Sandy Alderson. Why are you worried?
1. George Springer needs to be the priority, because he solidifies the Mets’ lineup and their defense, and he’ll play 155 games and not 35.
2. Have we mentioned Bauer is a quirky guy? Will quirky play in the big, bad city?
3. You’ve already added Stroman’s deal. Springer isn’t going to come cheap. Michael Conforto should probably be an early box to check, trying to get him signed extended long term and he’s repped by Scott Boras, so you can forget about a hometown discount. If Syndergaard comes back near his old self, he’s another guy you may need to budget some bucks for …
(Pauses, checks notes, remembers who’s in charge now.)
Well, No. 1 and No. 2 still apply.
In the end? If Bauer is willing, and if The New Boss is willing, this feel like a marriage that almost has to happen. And if the Yankees (who also need rotation help) show interest and it becomes the first Free Agent Subway Series showdown? Well, Cohen said Tuesday he doesn’t feel he’s competing against just the Yankees, but all 29 other MLB teams. And maybe that’s true.
But that would be an awfully sweet way to kick things off, no?
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