The defending World Series champions just got stronger.
On Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a three-year deal with free-agent starter Trevor Bauer, who confirmed the signing on his YouTube channel. According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, Bauer's deal is worth $102 million, and he can opt out after each of the first two years. He is slated to make a record-breaking $40 million in 2021 and $45 million in 2022.
A little more than a year after Gerrit Cole signed his historic nine-year, $324 million contract with the New York Yankees, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner signed his own megadeal, albeit with a vastly different structure.
The right-handed ace will have the opportunity to win his first World Series while pitching roughly 16 miles from his hometown of North Hollywood.
Who are some of the winners and losers of the Bauer sweepstakes? Let's take a look at the parties benefiting the most from Friday's news, as well as those left with something of a bitter aftertaste.
Winner: Trevor Bauer
Do we really need to elaborate on why Bauer is the biggest winner?
He'll be making the highest single-season salary in MLB history in each of the next two years. He also has the opportunity to opt out after each campaign following his previous comments about wanting to sign contracts year-to-year, maintaining tremendous flexibility.
Plus, we cannot ignore the comfort of pitching close to home. Keep in mind Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the New York Mets offered Bauer slightly more in guaranteed money.
In coming home, Bauer is joining an organization that has a similar approach to pitching analytics. Dodgers pitchers like Clayton Kershaw were among those to visit Driveline Baseball last year, and Bauer is one of the more notable Driveline products.
There's also this: Dodger Stadium is more of a pitcher-friendly environment than Great American Ball Park. The latter was the fourth-friendliest run-scoring environment in 2020, per ESPN's Park Factor. Dodger Stadium ranked 21st.
That was not an aberration during a short season either. Great American ranked 11th in Park Factor in 2019, whereas Dodger Stadium ranked 24th. Granted, there is some fluidity to this metric, but it stands to reason Bauer could benefit from a change in venue. Not to mention, the Dodgers ranked second in defensive runs saved in 2020, per FanGraphs.
The fit makes sense from both a baseball and philosophical perspective. Bauer will make a massive chunk of cash while still having the ability to earn a lucrative, long-term contract in the near future.
He is the biggest winner here.
Loser: Mid-Tier Free Agents
All the talk of financial gloom and doom did not inhibit the Dodgers from surpassing—actually, far surpassing—the $210 luxury-tax threshold in order to sign Bauer, according to Roster Resource.
The Mets were essentially willing to do the same. But Bauer is a star. He was always going to command a high dollar value.
Realistically, the structure of Bauer's deal is likely to further the gap between the top tier of free agents and what Andy McCullough of The Athletic deemed baseball's "middle class."
What is to stop big-market clubs like L.A. or New York from throwing money at top stars with opt-outs in an effort to lure them to town? With small-market clubs either intent on cutting or mitigating spending, where will this "middle class" turn?
One-year deals have been all the rage this offseason. Starting pitchers have done better than expected in a depressed market. But again, the majority have had to accept one-year pacts. The same can mostly be said of the relief market aside from headliner Liam Hendriks.