Yesterday the Los Angeles Dodgers officially signed Trevor Bauer to a three-year, $102 million deal. It is an unconventional contract, right on par with Bauer’s personality, that provides both Bauer and Dodgers rare flexibility.
Some clauses enable Bauer to opt-out of the contract after the first and second years if he chooses to do so. He is slated to make $38 million the first year, earning another $2 million if he opts out.
If Bauer opts in for the second year, his salary will drop to $32 million. However, at the end of the 2022 season, he again has the ability to opt out and, this time, can get an additional $15 million. ($85 million for two years)
If he opts in for the third year, his 2023 salary will be $32 million. Very confusing stuff. Thank you, Jabari Young, for laying out these intricacies.
The reason for the structure of this deal is flexibility. It provides both Bauer and the Dodgers flexibility.
Bauer has stated before that he would never sign a multi-year contract and, due to the structure of this deal, he really hasn’t. He’s signed on for the 2021 season. If he dominates, he will increase his value as a player and potentially increase his payroll if he chooses to opt out.
If he has an issue with players, coaches, or someone in the front office, he can opt-out and will not be stuck with this organization for 7+ years, the typical contract-length for star pitchers.
If there is an unprecedented increase in MLB teams’ budget, Bauer can opt-out and take advantage of a potential pay raise. Most players do not have this flexibility.
Most MLB free agents sign long-term deals to secure the most money they can. This can and will cash-strap teams, too, most notably exhibited by Albert Pujols and the Angels.
Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers don’t like to make those deals. When pursuing Bryce Harper or Gerrit Cole in past offseasons, the Dodgers offered shorter deals (in terms of years) than what the players would eventually sign for. This is to secure roster and financial flexibility.
If Trevor Bauer isn’t the 2020 Trevor Bauer, the Dodgers will not pay him after 2023.
If Bauer becomes a clubhouse nuisance and infects the team’s chemistry, the Dodgers can rid themselves of Bauer and his contract by, at the latest, 2023.
It can come sooner, though. The Dodgers have afforded themselves massive flexibility with this deal. Trading a player with only three years on an expensive contract is way easier than trading a player with five years or more on an expensive contract.
“We just signed Bauer. Why would we trade him?”
Well, I’m not betting on this to happen, but if the Dodgers’ young starting pitchers out-perform Bauer, the front office might look to move him for other pieces we may need to make a championship run.
Honestly, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball and didn’t need to sign Trevor Bauer for a chance to win another championship. If he underperforms, he becomes trade bait, and trading him has the potential to make our farm system the best in baseball again.
However, if he pitches at his Cy Young-caliber potential, we don’t trade him. Unless we’re out of playoff contention, a lot of things would have to go wrong, and a lot of players would have to have “down” years, but there is a slim chance this happens.
In this case, Bauer’s trade value skyrockets, enabling the Dodgers to possibly get a hefty return in prospects. And because the intricacies of this deal provide so much flexibility, Bauer would then have the ability to opt-out of his deal and possibly resign with the Dodgers.
In baseball, you can hit the ball right on the button and lineout. It just depends where the ball lands and where the fielders are positioned. In this situation, both Bauer and the Dodgers are positioned pretty well.