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Dodgers Dugout: Looking at the Trevor Bauer signing

Cincinnati Reds' Trevor Bauer reacts after recording a strikeout against Milwaukee Brewers.
Trevor Bauer
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and there’s a new Dodger in town.

Last week, the Dodgers signed reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to a three-year, $102-million contract, just eclipsing the contract I have with the Times.

Bauer will get $40 million this season and $45 million next season, with the ability to opt out after either season. However, for payroll tax threshold purposes, MLB uses average annual value, which means Bauer would count as a $34 million salary each season.

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According to Cots contracts, the team had a payroll of $204.5 million before signing Bauer, and it is $238.5 million now, which puts them well over the $210 million threshold, which means they will have to pay a penalty if all remains the same. The Dodgers’ payroll number is an estimate and can certainly change before the season starts, but even if it adjusts downward due to arbitration decisions, it appears they will be well above the limit. What kind of penalty will they face? According to MLB.com:

“A club exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the first time must pay a 20 percent tax on all overages. A club exceeding the threshold for a second consecutive season will see that figure rise to 30 percent, and three or more straight seasons of exceeding the threshold comes with a 50 percent luxury tax. If a club dips below the luxury tax threshold for a season, the penalty level is reset. So, a club that exceeds the threshold for two straight seasons but then drops below that level would be back at 20 percent the next time it exceeds the threshold.

“Clubs that exceed the threshold by $20 million to $40 million are also subject to a 12 percent surtax. Meanwhile, those who exceed it by more than $40 million are taxed at a 42.5 percent rate the first time and a 45 percent rate if they exceed it by more than $40 million again the following year(s).”

This will count as the Dodgers’ first season over the threshold, so they will pay a 20% tax on every dollar over $210 million.

Now that all the boring math is out of the way, let’s discuss the on-field impact.

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Is this a good signing?

Too soon to tell. If he blows his arm out in spring training, then no. You just never know. When the Dodgers signed Justin Turner off the waiver wire in 2014, you could have said “Why waste money on this guy?” But it turned out OK.

Isn’t $40 million in one season a little much?

I think so. He was outstanding last season, finishing with a 1.73 ERA, striking out 100 in 73 innings. But let’s look at his ERA (and ERA+) by year. For an explanation of ERA+, click here.

2012: 6.06 (69)
2013: 5.29 (73)
2014: 4.18 (94)
2015: 4.55 (95)
2016: 4.26 (106)
2017: 4.19 (109)
2018: 2.21 (196)
2019: 4.48 (106)
2020: 1.73 (276)
Career: 3.90 (113)

That doesn’t look like a $40-million pitcher to me. if you are going to make that much, your name better be Koufax or Maddux or Pedro Martinez or Kershaw.

Kershaw’s career ERA+ is 158. Buehler’s is 129.

Here are some pitchers with a career ERA+ of 113 since 1970: Don Gullett, Marcus Stroman, Dallas Keuchel, Ben Sheets, Lindy McDaniel, Dave Heaverlo, Phil Niekro, Ferguson Jenkins, Brad Radke.

As for last season, it was only 11 starts. Heck in 2019 with Cincinnati, he made 10 starts and had a 6.39 ERA. So forgive me if I am not overly impressed by the small sample size of one-third of a season.

Money aside, he is not a bad pitcher and should be a good arm on the Dodgers. But so was Kenta Maeda and so was Hyun-Jin Ryu, and no one is offering them $40 million.

What does the Dodger rotation look like now?

If David Price comes back, it will be Kershaw, Buehler, Bauer, Price and Julio Urias. If Price doesn’t come back, it will be Kershaw, Buehler, Bauer, Urias and Dustin May.

Will Bauer pitch every fourth day?

He wants to, but, it seems unlikely the Dodgers, with their mastery of using the DL to get their starters an extra few days off occasionally, will let him.

What is this I hear about Bauer and social media?

Bauer is very active on social media, and can be quite entertaining. He has run into trouble occasionally though.

In 2019, Bauer engaged in a Twitter battle with a female college student. The woman tweeted that Bauer was her new least favorite in all of sports. Instead of just brushing it off, Bauer decided to respond, going so far as to find a tweet she sent out showing her drinking alcohol two months before she turned 21. Some of Bauer’s followers jumped in and starter attacking the student online. According to USA Today, Bauer mentioned the woman in 80 different tweets, but said she was obsessed with him. Bauer eventually apologized, saying “I have been made aware that some of the interactions related to a specific Twitter exchange may have had a negative impact. That was not my intention. I will wield the responsibility of my public platform more responsibly in the future.”

So, there are a lot of unknowns about the Bauer signing. Maybe in 12 months we’ll be saying “Can you believe he won the Cy Young again and pitched two shutouts in the World Series?” Or maybe we’ll be saying “Can you believe the Dodgers gave $40 million to a guy who had a 4.50 ERA and was the fifth-best pitcher in the rotation? We’ll just have to wait and see.

What’s next?

Well, this certainly gives the Dodgers more room to make a trade if they want to. They have an abundance of starting pitching, so including May or Tony Gonsolin or Mitch White or Josiah Gray in a trade is less painful now. This also means that signing Justin Turner becomes less probable, but I still think they find a way to make it happen.

It’s unlikely the Dodgers are done making moves now.

Will this be Clayton Kershaw’s last year with the team?

Times Dodgers reporter Jorge Castillo traveled to the home of Clayton Kershaw this off-season and came back with a great story that can be read exclusively by latimes.com subscribers. It’s really a strong story, and while I never want this newsletter to turn into a promo for subscriptions, in this case, I will make an exception. Some quotes:

On the offseason after winning a World Series: “I wasn’t as enthused to get back going again, which is good thing. It’s a great problem to have. I think every offseason in the past it’s been, ‘I just want to get this done. I just want to do it, do it, do it.’ And there’s this passion and it just constantly builds and builds and builds. And now the pressure is just because we have a great team and we’re supposed to win. That’s awesome.”

Will he come back to the Dodgers after this season? “I love being with the Dodgers. Love it. So thankful that I’ve gotten to be there and I would never want that to change. I’ve always loved being there. Playing with one team your whole career is very cool, I think, but legacy’s not important to me on the baseball field. I don’t worry about that.”

What he does want, he said, is “my teammates’ respect and I just want to pitch well as long as I can. So all that other stuff will take care of itself.”

On his involvement with and creation of some charitable organizations: “I just want everyone to have the same equal opportunity to have a good life. Sometimes that’s not an easy thing to understand. It’s something I didn’t understand. It matters where you come from, unfortunately. I don’t think that’s the way it should be and, to me, that’s not a political issue. Let’s just make things better for people and make things better for kids.”

Latimes.com subscribers can read the whole story here.

Joc says good-bye

Remember how I often playfully knocked Joc Pederson for being such a horrible post-game TV interview? Well, he more than made up for it with his farewell letter to Dodgers fans. It starts like this: “Every night, when I put my daughter to bed, I kiss her on the forehead and we say the same two things to each other.

“I tell her I love her. (She says back, “I love you!”)

“And I tell her to dream big. (She says back, “Dream big!”)

“I love you obviously speaks for itself.

“And dream big ... what I mean by “dream big,” I think, is that I just want to encourage her to always GO FOR IT in life. Not that she has to be a perfect person, or that she has to accomplish everything she sets out to do. But the one thing I want to make sure my daughter knows is that, when it comes to what her dreams can be ... that’s limitless.

“I’ve just always felt like, man — there are so many ups and downs that we all have to deal with, so many challenges that we have to face. But I think the one gift we can give ourselves, one of the things worth really hanging onto as we move through life, is to never compromise on our dreams. And every night, I guess, I try to remind my daughter of that.

“What’s funny is, recently, I’ve also been reminding myself.”

It’s the beginning of an emotional ride through his career and what he sees for the future. Go read it here.

What rules will be in effect next season?

There has been no official decision made on a DH in the NL next season, but there will be seven-inning doubleheaders and extra innings will again begin with a runner on second. The three-batter minimum is back as well.

As for the DH, does MLB realize spring training starts in a few days?

Speaking of spring training

The first workout of Dodger pitchers and catchers is Feb. 18 while the first full-squad workout is Feb. 23.

Minor-league coaching staffs

The Dodgers announced their minor-league coaching staffs. They are:

Oklahoma City:

Manager- Travis Barbary

Hitting Coach- Manny Burriss

Pitching Coach- Jamey Wright

Bench Coach- Bill Haselman

Bullpen Coach- Justin DeFratus

Tulsa:

Manager- Scott Hennessey

Hitting Coach- Brett Pill

Pitching Coach- Dave Borkowski

Bench Coach- Chris Gutierrez

Great Lakes:

Manager- Austin Chubb

Hitting Coach- David Popkins

Pitching Coach- Ryan Dennick

Bench Coach- Elian Herrera

Assistant Pitching Coach- Durin O’Linger

Rancho Cucamonga:

Manager- John Shoemaker

Hitting Coach- Dylan Nasiatka

Pitching Coach- Stephanos Stroop

Pitching Coach- Ramon Troncoso

Bench Coach- Johan Garcia

AZL:

Manager- Danny Dorn

AZL Field Coordinator/Hitting Coach- Keith Beauregard

Hitting Coach- Jarek Cunningham

Pitching Coach- Bobby Cuellar

Pitching Coach- David Anderson

Bench Coach- Tony Cappuccilli

Bench Coach- Fumi Ishibashi

Defensive Coach- Petie Montero

DSL:

Manager- Jair Fernandez

Manager- Cordell Hipolito

Hitting Coach- Sergio Mendez

Hitting Coach- Johermyn Chavez

Hitting Coach- Chase Aldridge

Pitching Coach- Roberto Giron

Pitching Coach- Andres Urbina

Pitching Coach- Hector Rodriguez

Defensive Coordinator- Pedro Mega

Sr. Advisor, CLP- Antonio Bautista

Coach- Leury Bonilla

Coach- Dunior Zerpa

Coach- Raidel Chacon

Your first Dodgers memory

Since I still have a lot of these, “Your first Dodgers memory” returns this season. If you haven’t already, I’d still love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and it might run in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name and where you live. And don’t send only a sentence. Tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. Thanks.

Jake Downey of Northridge: My parents first induced my lifelong and sometimes-unhealthy baseball addiction when they took me to my first game at Dodger Stadium in 1972. My dad was also a redhead of Irish ancestry and loved Vin Scully not just for his similar lineage but more for his golden voice and masterful storytelling. He thought Scully was an incomparable wordsmith.

The first Dodger season I followed in depth was 1974. This culminated in October with my 8th birthday at Studio City Park, where I asked for a friends and family softball game. Game 2 of the 1974 World Series was going on (this was back in the Neanderthal era of baseball when World Series games were played in the daytime). My Uncle Chuck was on his transistor radio giving us updates on the game as we played softball.

So we had our game and finished in time to listen to the finish as Dodgers pulled out a 3-2 win, their only victory of the Series. I now think of the Dodgers and this event when I think of my childhood and my Uncle Chuck and all the birthdays I’ve had through the years, and all over again as I returned to this park with my own kids. Now I head a season-ticket group with four other families and probably see 15-20 games a year at Dodger Stadium, many with my teenage son. It started many moons ago with a childhood trip to the ballpark with my folks.

Paul Hunt of Sierra Madre: Sometime during 1962 I started to become a baseball fan by listening to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett broadcast the Dodgers. That was the year that Maury Wills stole 104 bases, Tommy Davis led the league in batting average, and Don Drysdale won the Cy Young Award.

But it wasn’t enough and the Dodgers and Giants tied for the National League pennant. They had a three-game playoff and it was everywhere in Los Angeles, from teachers having the radio on at my school to grocery stores playing the radio broadcast on their PA systems. The Dodgers lost the third game of the playoff and I was heartbroken. I hadn’t learned that your favorite team doesn’t always win.

History records that the Dodgers won the World Series in 1963, sweeping the Yankees. That erased the memories from one year earlier.

And finally

Tommy Lasorda removes Doug Rau from a World Series game, featuring some very, very, very not-safe-for-work language. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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