Trevor Bauer has ended his current tenure with the Cincinnati Reds. That was effective at the end of the 2020 World Series, at which point the reds opted to issue a Qualifying Offer to their ace - effectively, a 1-year ~$18.9 million contract that, if rejected, would entitle the Reds to some draft pick compensation down the road.
Bauer, however, is poised to get a lot more than that in free agency, as he’s pretty clearly the premier starting pitcher on the free agent market this winter. As a result, he predictably rejected that offer today, made official with the announcement on Twitter from his agent, Rachel Luba.
Why wait for the QO to expire to state the obvious (plus @BauerOutage believes the QO is a ridiculous process so let’s just put it to bed)—— Rachel Luba (@AgentRachelLuba) November 4, 2020
Trevor Bauer has rejected the QO but not the Reds, & he looks forward to speaking w/ them & all other interested teams thru Free Agency.
As Luba noted, this truly has nothing to do with whether the Reds and Bauer will eventually come to an agreement on a contract going forward, and was merely and administrative ticking of a box. It’s pretty clear he’s willing to negotiate with anyone, however, and while that includes the Reds, this sets the stage for all 30 MLB teams to pursue him if they so desire, with potential draft pick ramifications now in play.
Those, in a rather complicated fashion, depend upon a number of topics, ranging from the overall size of the contract Bauer eventually signs, and what kind of revenue generating (and sharing) the club that signs him has participated in over the previous years. What’s clear, though, is that the Reds will now get at least something for him if Bauer signs elsewhere, and if the overall deal exceeds $50 million guaranteed, they’ll end up getting a compensation pick that will land somewhere between the end of the 1st round and start of the 2nd round next year.
While that may sound like cold comfort, keep in mind that the main prospect they gave up in acquiring Bauer - then top prospect Taylor Trammell - was drafted 35th overall back in 2016. If Bauer signs for more than $50 million elsewhere, the Reds will end up with a pick somewhere close, at least, to that range.
The biggest caveats involved here are whether the Reds end up signing him anyway - which would mean they get him, but no draft pick compensation - or if Bauer ends up doing what he suggested was on the table a few years back: signing only lucrative 1-year contracts to maintain the utmost flexibility and maximize his earning power, if healthy. While a 1-year, $40 million deal to pitch for a non-Reds club would be a record in terms of average annual value, it wouldn’t do the Reds many favors given the current language in the specifics, as it wouldn’t clear the threshold for them to get the best compensatory draft pick. They’d still get one, of course, but it would come several rounds later, not nearly the kind of reward they’d be hoping for while losing their ace.
None of this will come as any surprise to the Reds front office. That said, given the financial issues facing all MLB clubs during this pandemic, it’ll be interesting to see if the Reds are as bold as Bauer is about their financial strength heading into these cloudy times and match him with a worthy enough offer.