Last week, Randy Karraker put up a poll on Twitter that surprised me. Not that he put up the poll, but the results of the poll. He asked a very simple question. “Should the Cardinals sign Trevor Bauer to the minimum?” And no did win out... barely.
When Trevor Bauer clears waivers, should the Cardinals sign him for the minimum for their rotation?— Randy Karraker (@RandyKarraker) January 11, 2023
That surprised me. I thought there was more agreement to not sign him, and while that poll technically made that thought correct, it’s basically 50/50. When I perused True Blue LA, the Dodgers SB Nation blog, the day after he was DFA’d, it was nearly unanimous support for the DFA. I’m not even kidding. So when I learned nearly 50% of the people who voted on that poll, nearly 4,300 people, said yeah let’s sign Bauer, it surprised me.
I know what you may be thinking; the Cardinals need a starting pitcher more than the Dodgers. Not really. The Dodgers certainly have five players penciled into the rotation, but well so do the Cardinals. They do not have more depth beyond those five than the Cardinals do.
The Cardinals should not sign Trevor Bauer. And to hopefully convince you, the reader, I am going to make the case beyond the obvious. But yes, it must also be said that Bauer was suspended for 194 games for violating the league’s domestic and sexual assault policy.
She described that the first encounter escalated to Bauer performing multiple sexual acts without consent. She alleged that Bauer choked her to the point of unconsciousness and punched her in the face and genitals. Ms. Hill also claims he initiated sex without her consent.
Two more women have come forward after that. There’s also an incident where, after a woman who was under 21 said that “Bauer was her least favorite person in all of sports” he mentioned her in 80 tweets, long after she stopped responding. If you remotely want women to continue to enjoy the sport of baseball, you should not support Bauer signing with anyone really.
But for the sake of argument, let’s try to ignore all of that. I legitimately think there’s a case to not sign him for other reasons as well. If you were to somehow block all of the previous information out of your brain, you still shouldn’t sign Trevor Bauer. Because lost in all this is one important fact:
The Dodgers aren’t a moral high ground team. They just aren’t. If the allegations were all it was, he may very well still be a Dodger. As the Bauer defenders love to point out, Marcell Ozuna is still an Atlanta Brave. I’ve never heard anything bad about Ozuna as a teammate, however while Bauer has made no secret that he doesn’t care if he’s liked in the clubhouse. Back in a profile Sports Illustrated did of him in 2019, they said this:
Bauer has a reputation as a troublesome teammate. Some members of his organization have griped that the clubhouse consists of “24 plus Trevor,” and, says one player, “I think Trevor cares about Trevor a lot.”
He is not well-liked. That is probably more true now than it was when that was written. It would most likely be bad for team morale if Bauer signed with the Cardinals. There was not a push for the Dodgers to keep Bauer by his teammates, because I guarantee if there was, he would still be a Dodger. Brusdar Graterol for instance liked an Instagram post when this news was announced that he was DFA’d. I don’t think most MLB players want him on their team and while maybe the allegations are why, I don’t think that completely explains it.
Also, here’s a good baseball reason: who the hell knows if Bauer is even good now? That may sound absurd to you. But you may forget that when baseball cracked down on the sticky stuff, Bauer’s stuff was hugely impacted by it. It’s a small sample, but he was straight up not very good in the eight games he pitched after baseball cracked down on the sticky stuff. He did manage a 3.04 ERA, but a 5.00 FIP and 4.30 xFIP. His overall stats in his 17 starts in 2021, the last time he did pitch, were pretty much in line with what the Cardinals already have in fact. He had 1.8 fWAR in 107.2 IP, in other words, between a 2-3 WAR pitcher.
Then there’s a couple other factors. Namely, he won’t have pitched in an MLB game in nearly two years. You telling me he’s just going to pop back up and become an ace? I doubt it. You want an ace on the Cardinals? I’m pretty sure that Bauer isn’t going to be that guy. And not only is it two years later, he’s also 32-years-old. You would expect a natural decline by this point anyway. He’s suspended for the first 50 games as well, so his impact will be limited. If he ever returns to his previous self, it probably won’t come immediately, and his regular season performance is not super likely to be any different from what the Cardinals already offer.
I like to root for the players who wear the Birds on the Bat. Part of the appeal of rooting for players, and not just jerseys, is that they are on the surface at least, likable. Adam Wainwright is extraordinarily likable as a person. He will go down as a Cardinal legend for both his performance and because he’s such a good guy. In fact, he probably wouldn’t still be a Cardinal if he weren’t such a good guy. Fans like to see him succeed. It’s more rewarding as a fan to be able to root for a person you like.
That is not Trevor Bauer. Even his most aggressive defenders will acknowledge that you will not like him. That’s almost part of his appeal in a weird way to some people. It would be very difficult to root for Bauer for a lot of fans and impossible for some. Signing Bauer would be horrible PR for the Cardinals. Absolutely horrible. I know the Cardinals won’t sign Bauer because they care about that. They care about their brand. Bauer would hurt their brand. There’s no question about it.
Some portion of fans, and it won’t be as large as claimed, but a non-zero percent, will stop being Cardinals fans if the Cardinals sign Bauer. They will lose the goodwill they gained by the Albert Pujols signing last year and how well it went. You can pretend this doesn’t exist if you want the Cardinals to sign Bauer, but it absolutely does. This stuff matters to the Cardinals.
The Cardinals shouldn’t sign Bauer because it’s bad PR, it’s bad for clubhouse morale, his impact on the team won’t be as great as you think, and of course he has disturbing and credible allegations made against him. Oh yeah, and he’s pretty well-known as someone who doesn’t listen to coaches either. There’s also that. There are, in fact, zero non-baseball reasons to sign him.
Thankfully, this is such an aggressively non-Cardinals move that I would be more shocked if they sign Bauer than if they signed Aaron Judge over the offseason. Say what you will about the Cardinals, about your beef with their transactions or strategy or whatever, they have absolutely established themselves as someone who will not sign Trevor Bauer. The Cardinals rarely make it hard to be a Cardinals fan and I doubt they start now.