As we saw in his start against the Brewers on Wednesday night, Trevor Bauer on short rest can be amazing. He limited the Brewers to four hits and a walk over eight 1-run innings. He struck out 12. Bauer is the most analytical pitcher, if not player, in baseball right now. One of the things he does that’s unique is that he runs a slew of biometric tests on himself daily to monitor the condition of his body. It’s likely a reason that the only IL stint in his career was caused by getting hit with a comebacker to the mound that broke a bone in his leg. One of the products of this analysis is Bauer’s claim that his data shows his body is actually at its peak pitching shape after three days of rest instead of the conventional four days.
Bauer will be a free agent for the first time this offseason. No team has given him a chance to play out this experiment over a full season, but if a team were willing to it might give them a leg up to sign the 29-year-old. Bauer has stated he only wants to sign 1-year contracts from here on out, which sacrifices guaranteed financial stability for the ability to choose where he plays and to chase championships. Bauer is definitely not a conventional major leaguer and it’s going to take an unconventional pitch to land his services next season.
How workable would it be to have one pitcher on a staff going on three days rest while the others take at least the standard four days?
I sat down with the Reds 2021 schedule and mapped out a rotation schedule. In practice, giving Bauer what he wants wouldn’t be as disruptive to the rest of the staff as it sounds. Assuming a rotation of Sonny Gray, Bauer, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Wade Miley, only Mahle and Miley would sacrifice starts. Bauer would end the season with 43 starts, Gray and Castillo with 32, Mahle with 28, and Miley 27. Of those, Bauer would start 36 of his games on 3 days rest and the other 7 on the conventional 4 days; Gray would start 22 games on normal rest, 7 on 5 days rest, and 3 on 6 days rest; Castillo would also start 22 on normal rest, 5 on 5 days, and 5 on 6 days; Wade Miley would start 16 of 27 starts on normal rest, 3 on 5 days, 3 on 6, and 3 on 7 or more.
The fifth pitcher’s (Mahle in this case) schedule is the most erratic. He would start 15 of his 28 games on normal rest, 2 on 5 days rest, and 2 on 6 days, but also there would be 9 instances where he would go a week or more between starts. However, Mahle still has a minor league option left next season and on 4 of the 9 times he’d have extended off periods he would have at least 10 days between starts. This would allow the Reds to option him to the minors to make a start and be back up in time for his next major league start. This would also allow the Reds to recall an extra reliever to bolster the bullpen in the times which Mahle would be inactive.
I was worried that this may throw off the schedule of the other starting pitchers besides Bauer and knowing how pitchers are creatures of habit I was worried this may cause some friction. However, because of off days in a normal 162-game schedule, pitchers don’t stay on four day rest all the time anyhow. Let’s look at data from the 2019 season.
And compare that to our hypothetical schedule for 2021.
Castillo, Gray and Mahle would make a greater percentage of starts on regular rest in 2021 than in 2019. As you can see, all four pitchers’ 2021 starts are in line with their 2019 start totals. But the percentage of starts on normal rest increases for all four while additional days between starts decreases for all. The exceptions are a 6% increase for Miley on starts with 6 days or more between and 10% increase in the same category for Mahle. The latter would be augmented with starts at AAA as stated above.
Obviously, weather and injuries will alter these plans, but a plan to accommodate Bauer isn’t as farfetched as some of the more traditional baseball minds make it out to be.
While Bauer is due for some regression, especially if he loses the extra RPMs that he’s added this season, I think it still would be in the Reds best interest to try and bring him back. To land Trevor Bauer on the open market the Reds need every advantage they can get. Bauer seems comfortable in Cincinnati and he connects with his teammates. The front office has embraced new age pitching philosophies and hired Bauer’s Driveline partner in crime Kyle Boddy. And
Recent statements from Bauer and Reds President Dick Williams have left the door open for a return. Bauer indicated that he was relatively happy in Cincinnati with most of his issues being the team’s performance early in the season. But as the old adage goes, winning heals all wounds and he indicated that his top priorities being winning, being happy, and enjoying playing baseball. Bauer said he didn’t see any team as being out of the running but I feel like the Reds have the potential to check all of Bauer’s boxes in 2021. The fact that he’s already comfortable with his teammates and coaching staff could only be seen as an advantage.
As for the nuts and bolts of a contract, again you have to hook Bauer with something. Bauer has a bit of a sophomoric sense of humor, in 2018 he asked for $6.9 mil in arbitration but was denied. He asked instead for $6,420,969.69 and again the Indians countered and the two sides settled for $6,525,000. He then launched his “69 Days of Giving” in which he chose to donate $420.69 to a different charity every day for 68 straight days, then on the 69th day he made a final donation of $69,420.69. And after paying $6,002.70 to the campaign manager of his charitable endeavor, Bauer was left with $6,420,969.69 of his original salary (before taxes).
So, the right-hander has a favorite number or two. Maybe the Reds could indulge the man and offer him a 3-year deal worth $69 mil. This would give Bauer an average annual value of $23 mil per season, a raise from the $17.5 mil he was set to make in 2020 and would place him between Patrick Corbin and Masahiro Tanaka inside the top-15 highest average earning starting pitchers.
As for Bauer’s stated 1-year-deal preference, the Reds showed that they could get creative to land top free agents when they added multiple opt-out clauses in Nick Castellanos’ contract, so perhaps they could do the same for Bauer. This would give him financial stability if he wants it, but also the ability to leave if and when he wants. It wouldn’t be a typical contract, but with a personality and talent like Trevor Bauer you have to pull out all the stops.
Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/Reds/status/1305578844750065664