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Trevor Bauer to the Dodgers?!

The Los Angeles Dodgers, 2020 World Series champions and the best team in baseball, have somehow gotten even better. Possibly the most coveted free agent of this offseason, starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, has signed with the Dodgers. It was difficult to predict where Bauer would go entering the 2021 offseason, however most people would not have guessed that he would sign with the reigning champions. This signing has many implications for the future of baseball and the future for all sports. 

Two years ago, the Washington Nationals won the World Series. They proceeded to lose one of their best players, third baseman Anthony Rendon, to the Los Angeles Angels in free agency. This is not uncommon because it is difficult to have many good players on the same team because inevitably, they will ask for more money than the team may have. The Nationals went from the World Series champions to last place in their division and they ended up missing the 2020 playoffs. It appears as if the Dodgers do not want to fail like the Nationals. The Dodgers maintained a majority of their championship roster and instead of losing a top player, they added pitcher Trevor Bauer. 

According to Jeff Passan, the Dodgers signed Bauer to a three-year $102 million contract. He has an opt-out for each year of his contract. Bauer is set to earn $40 million in his first year and $45 million in his second year. The $40 million is a record for the highest salary in a year, but he breaks that record in the following year with $45 million. How is it possible that the best team in baseball is able to afford this contract? First, the Dodgers have one of the highest payrolls in baseball. They are in a big market and are consistently a very good baseball team. This leads them to have and spend a lot of money. Second, they are in a situation where they can hardly afford it, but they do not care. According to Jeff Passan, when the Dodgers added Bauer, they went $30 million over the luxury tax. The luxury tax makes it so that if a team passes a certain limit, they must pay an extra percentage of their payroll to the league. Most teams try to avoid going over the luxury tax, but it appears as if the Dodgers are just trying to go win again and they do not care how much they have to spend to do it. 

So, what does this mean for baseball? Simply put, the Dodgers are going to be very difficult to beat. Last year the Dodgers had one of the best pitching rotations in baseball, but now it is even better. Their projected starting rotation consists of Clayton Kershaw, who is almost a lock in for the hall of fame and is still one of the most effective pitchers in all of baseball, Walker Buehler, who is a playoff superstar and is often considered to be a top 10 pitcher in baseball, Julio Urias, who is a young pitcher that shined in the 2020 playoffs, David Price, who is a former Cy Young award winner and finally Trevor Bauer who won the Cy Young award just last year. 

The Dodgers still have the second-best player in baseball, right fielder Mookie Betts. They still have Corey Seager who is a top five shortstop in baseball. The Dodgers aren’t the only team in baseball that made major upgrades. The San Diego Padres traded for many top pitchers as well and will have a formidable rotation just like the Dodgers. The Yankees signed former Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber. The Chicago White Sox signed elite closer Liam Hendricks. So, it isn’t a lock that the Dodgers are going to repeat, however considering that the Dodgers looked dominant last year and now they added a top five pitcher in baseball to their rotation, it is going to be difficult for many teams to compete with them. 

How does Bauer’s contract and situation affect all sports? Trevor Bauer is known to be very vocal, whether it’s on the field or on social media: he is very active. He frequently uses Twitter to complain about something going on in baseball or anything else. Bauer also posts videos on YouTube on his opinions about certain players and his own gameplay. This past year he posted vlogs about his process of playing during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has done interviews with many social media groups and channels as he attempts to build his brand. So, this brings to question: did his brand have anything to do with his contract? Do teams want to bring in players with more personality and more connection to fans? It is possible that teams do not actually want their players to be as active in social media as Bauer is because they are afraid of what they might say. Bauer is not afraid to speak his mind, so that might bring a scare to teams. 
Maybe the Dodgers just paid Bauer because he was really good last year, but he made it clear that his brand and off field programs are very important to him. Bauer did not just change the dynamic of how players act off the field, but he did change how people are likely going to be paid in other sports as well. The amount elite players are paid may completely change now that Bauer has set this standard. According to ESPN, point guard Stephen Curry is the highest paid player in basketball as he is making $43 million in this year alone. Curry’s situation is different considering he has played on the same team for his whole career, but it is possible that other players may take Bauer’s approach to free agency and be more aggressive with the amount of money that they want. Even if Bauer’s signing has little effect on contracts in other sports, it is clear that Bauer is paving a path for sports players to be more interactive with their fans and for players to entertain and do more for fans off the field.

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