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Dodgers agree to deal with premier free-agent pitcher Trevor Bauer on 3-year deal

Trevor Bauer throws during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates in September.
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)

As they prepare to defend their first World Series title in 32 years, the Dodgers made a major splash Friday by agreeing to a deal with reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, who published a YouTube video with the news.

The three-year contract reportedly is worth $102 million, paying Bauer $40 million 2021, $45 million in 2022, with Bauer able to opt out after either season. Bauer’s contract will send the Dodgers 2021 payroll well over the $210-million luxury tax threshold. According to Cots contracts, the team had a competitive balance tax (CBT) payroll of $204.5 million before signing Bauer, whose $34-million average annual value would push the Dodgers’ CBT payroll to $238.5 million.

After posting a league-leading 1.73 ERA in 11 starts with the Cincinnati Reds in the 60-game 2020 season, Bauer joins a loaded Dodgers rotation that is already returning its top starters from last year’s World Series champion team, cementing the club’s place as MLB favorites less than two months away from opening day.

The Dodgers astonishingly signed Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to a 3-year, $102-million deal. The best team in baseball just got enormously better.

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“This season is about adding to our legacy, and I can’t wait Dodger fans,” Bauer said in the YouTube video, which ended on a shot of him wearing a white Dodgers uniform.

Widely considered the top free agent pitcher available this offseason, Bauer reportedly narrowed his decision to the Dodgers and New York Mets. On Thursday, his agent, Rachel Luba, tweeted, “Down to 2” in apparent reference to Bauer’s selection process. The Mets reportedly gave Bauer a deadline of Friday at noon ET to make a decision, and by noon PT he did decide: on the Dodgers.

Prior to Friday, the Dodgers had been quiet this winter. Several role players, including Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernández, Alex Wood and Pedro Báez, signed elsewhere and third baseman Justin Turner remains available in free agency. And other than tweaks to the bullpen — including the acquisitions of Corey Knebel and Tommy Kahnle, plus the re-signing of Blake Treinen — the roster remained largely unchanged.
Bauer joins a rotation that includes Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and David Price, along with young but accomplished starters Julio Urias, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.

The Dodgers now have three former Cy Young Award winners in Bauer, Kershaw and Price. According to Elias Sports, nine teams in MLB history have started three former Cy Young winners in a single season. The last to do it was the 2014 Detroit Tigers with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price.

New Dodger Trevor Bauer’s nearly perfect junior season at Hart High and continuing stardom at UCLA through hard work foreshadowed his MLB greatness.

In nine MLB seasons, Bauer, 30, is 75-64 with a 3.90 ERA while averaging 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He has one of the most electric arsenals in the game, producing elite level spin rates with his fastball-slider-curveball-cutter mix.

A Southern California native who went to Hart High School in Santa Clarita and played collegiately for UCLA, Bauer was drafted third overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and made his MLB debut a year later before being traded to the Cleveland Indians in December 2012.

Beginning with the 2014 season, he made at least 26 starts each year prior to last summer’s pandemic-shortened campaign.

His only All-Star selection came in 2018, helping Cleveland to a third consecutive AL Central title by going 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA. After being traded to the Reds in July 2019, he helped that club achieve its first playoff appearance in seven years last season.

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A first-time free-agent this winter, Bauer attracted several rumored suitors. Throughout the process, he used his Twitter feed to hint at potential landing spots such as the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels and Padres. But all along, the Dodgers were believed to be strong contenders, especially if he was willing to take a shorter-term deal.

Earlier this week, Dodgers pitcher Buehler publicly endorsed the idea of signing Bauer during a radio interview on AM 570 KLAC.

Trevor Bauer pitches for Newhall Hart in May 2008.
(Austin Knoblauch / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s hard to say we wouldn’t want that guy around,” Buehler said. “He had an amazing year last year. I hope he finds his way into some blue.”

Bauer does have his detractors. He’s never been known as the most cooperative teammate. His active — and at times confrontational — use of social media has received criticism. And his blunt personality has rubbed many around the game the wrong way.

But his production has steadily improved over the course of his career. Since 2018, he ranks sixth among qualified MLB pitchers in Fangraphs’ version of wins above replacement (11.6), ninth in opponent batting average (.209), and 11th in ERA (3.18).

TREVOR BAUER

YEAR TEAM W/L ERA IP HA K

2012 Arizona 1-2 6.06 16.1 14 17

2013 Cleveland 1-2 5.29 17 15 11

2014 Cleveland 5-8 4.18 153 151 143

2015 Cleveland 11-12 4.55 176 152 170

2016 Cleveland 12-8 4.26 190 179 168

2017 Cleveland 17-9 4.19 176.1 181 196

2018 Cleveland 12-6 2.21 175.1 134 221

2019 Clev/Cin 11-13 4.48 213 184 253

2020 Cincinnati 5-4 1.73 73 41 100


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