Trevor Bauer’s apparent desired contract may have just placed himself right out of the New York Mets’ price range, even with the surge of funds that came with their new owner Steve Cohen.
MLB insider Jon Heyman reported that interested teams believe the 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner — and the biggest free-agent name available this offseason — is looking for a contract in the five-to-six year range with an average annual salary ranging between $36 million and $40 million.
Both Bauer and his agent, Rachel Luba, took to social media to downplay such reports. Regardless of its validity, though, the last thing Bauer and Luba would want is his contract desires made public — especially if it’s such an exorbitant number.
The record annual average salary for a starting pitcher is owned by New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who has been far more consistent over the years compared to Bauer, as the numbers suggest.
Should truly want a deal anywhere near the neighborhood of Heyman’s report, it would be difficult to see the Mets remain as a headlining suitor. According to Spotrac, they have $52.72 million in cap space remaining this season and still have multiple needs to address, including a starting center fielder — potentially George Springer — another starting pitcher to provide mid-rotation stabilization, and another reliever to bolster the bullpen.
A huge Bauer deal would prohibit the Mets from acquiring those other upgrades while remaining under the competitive balance tax, as he told the New York Post’s Steve Serby earlier this week.
“I think at some point we will, but maybe not this season,” he said. “I’m not afraid to go over it, but you want to have flexibility on our payroll. Long-term contracts can limit a team’s ability going forward.
“I’ve said we are a major-market team and we should spend like we are a major-market team, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to spend like drunken sailors.”
As the Mets remain one of the favorites to sign George Springer, who will get between $20 million and $25 million this offseason, the money that Bauer could make it one season could be redistributed.
Tomoyuki Sugano and Jake Odorizzi are two arms that have been linked with the Mets this offseason and combined are expected to make less money in 2021 than Bauer with projections placing their deals near the $13 million mark per season.
The book is still out on where Sugano could slot within a major-league rotation. Some think it’s at the top while others project more of a No. 3 or No. 4 option.
If the Mets believe it’s the former, they could be looking at an Opening Day rotation of Jacob deGrom, Sugano, Marcus Stroman, Odorizzi, and David Peterson or Steven Matz. Noah Syndergaard is then added to the mix when he is ready to go after his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, which is expected to be in June or July.
Assuming the signatures of Sugano and Odorizzi add up to a combined $26 million or so and signing Springer to patrol center field for another $25 million (at most), the Mets are still under that luxury tax threshold and are in much better shape compared to last season.
That also provides more flexibility to make the necessary moves to open up more space to offer contract extensions to the likes of Michael Conforto and potentially Syndergaard.