Many fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates have called for the team to sign starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, but should this even be on the team's radar?
Trevor Bauer is one of the most intriguing free agents still available to teams for 2024, but you're in one of two parties: you either love him or you hate him. While Bauer had a solid 2023 campaign with the Yokohama Bay Stars, both due to on and off the field issues, he shouldn’t be touched with a ten-foot pole, no matter if they have the chance to sign him to the base minimum or not.
If Bauer was younger, like other troubled players, he could be an exception, but at age 33 and likely only wanting to sign a 1-year contract, he isn’t worth the hassle of creating drama within any clubhouse, least of all a rebuilding club like the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Playing in Japan compared to playing in Triple-A in the minor leagues of baseball, so posting a 2.76 ERA may seem impressive to the casual fan, but that isn’t the best in Japan, where elite players, which Bauer calls himself, are posting ERAs constantly around the mid-to-high ones and twos.
Two of the main Japanese pitchers who agreed to join MLB this offseason so far have been Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who signed with the Dodgers, and Shota Imanaga, who signed with the Cubs. Teams were and are still unsure about another Japanese pitcher like Imanaga, but that raises even more questions when you put into account that Bauer played much worse than Imanaga.
Compared to Imanaga, Bauer gives up way more walks with fewer strikeouts and gets hit a lot worse, struggling with the longball for a bit, but even with less conventional stats like FIP and xFIP, Bauer posts much worse results than Imanaga.
Besides seeming to be completely blackballed from MLB, Bauer isn’t all that he seems, and while he did show good results in 2023 and cleared up most, if not all, of his legal problems, teams like the Pirates should still steer away from him. MLB teams want to win, and besides the seasons he was using spider tack, his MLB results weren’t as elite as he tries to make them seem.
In the postseason, Bauer is very hit-or-miss, which isn’t good when you account for the fact that in the 2016 World Series with the then Cleveland Indians. During this run to the World Series, Bauer had two losses that possibly cost his team a shot at winning it all.
In MLB, his accomplishments have been a Cy Young Award winner, one All-Star appearance, and the ERA Title, two of which he got in the shortened 2020 season, which doesn’t count for much to most fans. If you discount his spider-tack seasons of 2020 and 2021 and his one All-Star season in 2018, he has never posted an ERA under 4.00.
Assessing how well Bauer would perform upon returning to MLB is a complex task. Contrary to his claim of being a top-15 pitcher globally, the reality is that he doesn't even hold such a ranking in Japan, let alone in the more competitive MLB. It's doubtful that Bauer is among the top 100 pitchers worldwide.
His comments often lead to conflicts with others, suggesting it might be one of his intentions. This has led to him having issues in the clubhouse, as well as being traded away by Cleveland as his relationship with Terry Francona deteriorated.
Nevertheless, his current status in Japan paints a different picture, where he lives like a king. Returning to MLB, he would likely find himself in a less prestigious position, akin to a 4th or 5th pitcher in a rotation. In all sincerity, while a comeback would be welcomed, it might be in his best interest to remain where he is receiving the most attention.