The Brewers may or may not go after a free agent starting pitcher this offseason. Count Trevor Bauer out of the list off possible signees.
Over the last two seasons, the Brewers have used relatively different strategies when assembling their starting rotations at the beginning of the year. The two strategies, naturally, ended up producing different results.
In 2019, manager Craig Counsell began with a mostly youth-based rotation centered around the largely inexperienced Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta. That strategy backfired early and the team ended up pivoting with midseason replacements like Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Lyles.
Last season, the Brewers decided to mix more of a veteran presence into the rotation, signing starters Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson in free agency. While neither lit up the stat sheets, they helped bring more consistency and stability to a rotation that ended up performing well in 2020.
While Lindblom is still under contract, Anderson was only on a one-year deal and will almost certainly enter free agency without a qualifying offer. If the Brewers don’t feel like bringing him back on another short contract, they could opt to go shopping for a replacement starter.
A name that popped up this season on some Brewers fans’ wish lists is Reds starter Trevor Bauer, who also hits free agency this offseason. As Milwaukee looks to reset for a fourth-straight playoff run in 2021, could they make a run at the Cincinnati ace?
While he would obviously provide a huge boost to the pitching staff, there is little to no chance that the Brewers even attempt to sign Trevor Bauer.
There are multiple factors that explain why there is almost zero chance that Bauer will be in a Brewers uniform next season, but they all essentially boil down to this: based on his performance in 2020, Trevor Bauer is going to get paid.
Bauer was phenomenal last season for the Reds. He won the NL ERA title with a 1.73 ERA, led all qualified NL starters with a 0.795 WHIP and .159 batting average against, and was second in the NL behind just Jacob deGrom with a 12.33 K/9. He should easily take home the 2020 NL Cy Young award.
Performances like that, right before entering free agency, are what get pitchers monster contracts. Just look at what happened to current Yankees ace Gerrit Cole last offseason.
Cole had a career year during his 2019 contract year with the Astros, leading the AL in ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326) and finishing second to teammate Justin Verlander for the AL Cy Young award. It earned him a 9-year, $324MM contract with New York last offseason.
While it’s not exactly apples to apples (Cole has a bit better of a track record) there are some similarities here. Each had similar numbers and were roughly the same age during their breakout contract years. Bauer may not get a contract that matches Cole’s, but he’ll surely get a bump from the $17.5MM he made in 2020.
And that’s exactly what takes the Brewers right out of the picture. Even with Ryan Braun‘s contract coming off the books, Milwaukee still has plenty of money invested in players like Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Avisail Garcia. And that’s not taking into account players who will receive raises in arbitration.
As we mentioned in our offseason preview, GM David Stearns stated that the purse strings will be tight with payroll being very unlikely to increase in 2021. That leaves little chance that the Brewers would be able to afford Bauer, especially when they have multiple holes to address on offense.
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So while Bauer signing with Milwaukee in the offseason may have been a fun thought for some fans over the last few months, there’s virtually zero chance of it actually happening. That’s just one of the realities of being a Brewers fan.