Trevor Bauer doesn’t make sense for the Mets
Outside of the Padres, the New York Mets have been arguably the busiest team this offseason. That level of business has trickled into their reported interest in 2020 NL Cy Young winner, Trevor Bauer.
However, Bauer doesn’t make much sense for the New York Mets roster.
Why? Typically when you’re a team trying to capitalize on a championship window, you’d sign just about anyone that would be an upgrade over your currently-employed alternative. Following the season Bauer had, you’d have to figure he’s an upgrade over someone like David Peterson or even Seth Lugo.
While that opinion would be correct, it doesn’t justify giving a contract of substantial magnitude to a pitcher that likely wouldn’t be in your top two or three at full strength.
As it sits, the Mets’ rotation––when healthy––features Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, and Noah Syndergaard.
Since 2017, Bauer leads Carrasco and Syndergaard in fWAR and ERA; take note that his peripherals are worse than his two hypothetical teammates. Not only that, but the innings disparity is glaring. Syndergaard has had his run-ins with injuries, most notably his Tommy John surgery; Carrasco also had his bout with cancer, which he thankfully made a recovery from and came back a few months later. However, if you level the playing field in terms of wins above replacement, Bauer’s prorates to 3.4 per 150 innings. Carrasco’s is 3.6, and Syndergaard’s is 3.9.
Again, Bauer is in the ballpark of these three; one could argue he’s somewhere in between the two. Hypothetically, that would put Bauer as their third- or even fourth-best starter.
Why is that a big deal?
When you look at Syndergaard and Carrasco’s salaries, they’ll combine to make $21.7 million in 2021. The former is in his last year of arbitration, and the latter is under contract for two more seasons ($26 million). The reported price that Bauer could yield for a one-year deal has been in the ballpark of $40 million––though, that appears to be speculative.
Regardless of the validity of that price, it just doesn’t make sense for the Mets to go into the luxury tax to acquire a pitcher that, track record-wise, would be somewhere between their third- and fourth-best starter. Plus, with an estimated $25.3 million in wiggle-room below the luxury tax threshold, the Mets have already set themselves up to be successful in 2021. Why shrink or even entirely wipe out that space on a guy who hasn’t sustained the level of dominance exhibited in 2020?
There’s nothing wrong with having money left over. Baseball is a weird game sometimes. Injuries happen. Players once expected to be critical contributors completely underachieve. It’s better to have that space and not need it than to use it all up and not have it when problems present themselves.
If the Mets genuinely believe they need one more starter, even after acquiring Joey Lucchesi, why not take a flier on former cross-town rival James Paxton? He likely won’t command a long-term contract and would come exponentially cheaper than Bauer.
Major injury concerns are surrounding both Paxton’s back and his forearm. However, Paxton's risk of injury makes more sense financially than the risk of Bauer regressing to his averages. Both pitchers slide somewhere between their third- and fourth-best arm; one will just cost about 33 percent of the other’s reported/speculative price.