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Is It Time for the Miami Marlins to Sign Trevor Bauer?

The Miami Marlins need pitching and there's a former Cy Young winner available for the league minimum

The Miami Marlins are facing some injury issues in their rotation. 

Already facing the likelihood of not having Braxton Garrett to open the season due to shoulder soreness and with Max Meyer and Sizto Sanchez working their way back from injuries, the Marlins had to watch on Sunday as Edward Cabrera left the field during warmups for Sunday's game due to what the team is calling "right shoulder tightness." 

We looked at some of the free agent options that were available earlier this morning, but there's one notable name we didn't address in that piece because it warrants a larger discussion: Trevor Bauer

The 2020 Cy Young Award winner recently admitted he'd play for league minimum as he attempts to restart his career after serving MLB's longest domestic violence suspension in the history of the policy, at 194 games. 

So let's talk about it. 

The argument for signing Trevor Bauer

The baseball argument for signing Trevor Bauer is pretty obvious: He's a former Cy Young winner who would conceivably have a higher ceiling than most of the veteran minimum options still on the market at this time in spring. 

For his career, the 33-year-old Bauer has a 3.79 ERA across ten seasons, winning the 2020 Cy Young with a 1.73 ERA in 11 starts for the Cincinnati Reds. He led the league in several categories, including complete games (2, both shutouts), ERA+ (284) and hits per nine innings (5.1) while also leading the National League in ERA and WHIP (0.795). 

His 2023 season, his first with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was shaping up to be a good one as well, with Bauer sitting at 8-5 and a 2.59 ERA across his first 17 starts when he was placed on paid administrative leave. 

(And, having dominated Dodgers minor leaguers in an exhibition yesterday, it's obvious he's still in pretty decent baseball shape.) 

He's arguably more accomplished than many of the other options that could be signed at this point in spring training for a similar price, with several veterans either not having the pedigree of Bauer or being significantly older at the moment than Bauer's 33.  

The upside of a Trevor Bauer signing is plainly obvious.  

The baseball argument against signing Trevor Bauer

Bauer spent last season pitching in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) with the Yokohama BayStars (where he shared a rotation with now-Chicago Cubs starter Shota Imanaga.) It was a good season for Bauer, as well, as he went 10-4 with a 2.76 ERA in his 19 starts, covering 130.2 innings with 130 strikeouts to only 31 walks.

Bauer was named to the NPB All-Star Team, earning the spot as part of the league's "plus one" fan vote.  

But many have questions about the quality of competition in Japan, with Berkley University's Sports Analytics Group determining that the typical pitcher moving from NPB to MLB seeing an increase of around 1.2 runs in ERA off of their historical NPB performance.

It is, admittedly, not a strong argument against Bauer, who has plenty of MLB experience and has been working this offseason at staying prepared for a return to Major League Baseball. 

The off-field argument against signing Trevor Bauer

The off-field arguments against Bauer take two different forms - his reputation in baseball pre-suspension, and the allegations against him that led to the suspension. 

Bauer's been a somewhat controversial figure, one that's strained relationships in the sport. Some people took issue with his unusual training regimen, while others - the league office, namely - have found him combative and unusually outspoken on issues like "sticky stuff" or encouraging online harassment of various social media users with whom he had an issue.

(It's important to note that these experiences aren't universal - Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts, for instance, who shared a clubhouse with Bauer in 2021, called him an "awesome guy" and expressed support for Bauer's return to Major League Baseball.)   

And then, of course, there's the abuse allegations. In June 2021, Bauer was placed on administrative leave and later investigated by the Pasadena Police Department for an alleged assault of a woman earlier that year. No criminal charges were ultimately filed, and civil suits between the two parties were settled with no money exchanging hands and neither party admitting wrongdoing.   

While there are other allegations out there against Bauer, there are no pending court cases, hearings, or charges against him. 

Has MLB 'blacklisted' Bauer?

It sure seems like it! For instance, has compiled a list of all free agents from the offseason, updating as guys sign deals. Guess who isn't listed? Trevor Bauer. 

Julio Urías, the Dodgers pitcher who was arrested under suspicion of domestic violence, placed on administrative leave, and later not criminally charged is on there. 

Why not Bauer? 

Is it because of his reputation? The sticky-stuff dispute? We don't know, and probably never will for sure. 

What should Miami do?  

That's for Peter Bendix to decide. Bauer's acknowledged that whatever team signs him will take an initial PR hit, and that's part of the reason he's asking for only the league minimum - for the ability to let a team 'move on' at virtually no cost. 

“I mean if you think about it, I should have the opportunity to sign with a big league team,’’ Bauer said on Sunday, after pitching against Dodgers minor leaguers in an exhibition. “I’m just asking for the league minimum, so it's not a money thing. I've served my suspension twice over. I've been cleared of everything in the legal system."

And so some of this may end up coming down to health - at what point are enough pitchers unavailable for Miami where the benefits of signing Bauer outweigh whatever perceived PR hit comes to the team? 

We don't really know yet.