It’s currently February 1st and Trevor Bauer is still unsigned.
After serving a 194 game suspension by MLB (originally 324 games), Bauer is jobless and it’s looking less likely by the day that any MLB team will give him a shot.
So what’s next? Well, Bauer hasn’t pitched since June 2021 when he was with the Dodgers and he is currently a free agent after he was finally released on January 12th 2023.
Asia, specifically the NPB, might just be Bauer’s best (and only) chance to pitch in a respectable pro league.
Is Bauer to Japan happening? Let’s break it down.
Why it makes sense:
Bauer loves Japan
It’s no secret Bauer loves Japan and he has gone out of his way several times to connect with Japanese fans.
His Youtube channels, Watch Momentum and his personal channel have had videos fully translated in japanese in the past.
I also did a very simple twitter search and by his own account, Bauer has gone multiple times to Japan in the past decade, even spending an off-season there in 2019.
Oh, and when he was a free agent in 2020 he tweeted this:
NPB teams have given chances to guys with checkered pasts
This point hinges heavily on former star Blue Jays and Astros closer Roberto Osuna, who signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines in the middle of the 2022 season.
He came in, pitched 29.2 innings with a 0.91ERA, secured the closer role from longtime bullpen ace Naoya Masuda and left.
His next stop? The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, signing him to a one-year deal for 2023.
Both teams seemingly didn’t even blink at Osuna being charged with assault in 2018, they just saw a substantial upgrade to their bullpen.
That makes two NPB teams who willingly took in a guy that MLB teams effectively blacklisted.
Bauer’s salary will be covered by the Dodgers
According to Jeff Passan (@jeffpassan) the Dodgers will pay Bauer 22.5M dollars regardless where he pitches in 2023.
One of the allures for an MLB team to sign him is that any team can sign him for league minimum (720k).
But since no MLB teams are taking the bait, it sort of leaves Bauer free to pitch anywhere else with substantial financial security.
NPB teams are capable of giving out deals north of 8M dollars like they did with Masahiro Tanaka’s return to NPB and when the Yomiuri Giants offered ace Tomoyuki Sugano a new deal worth 7.6M AAV to keep him from going to MLB.
Will Bauer actually command that from an NPB team? Probably not.
But i don’t see money being a deterrent for both sides.
Why it won’t happen:
Most foreign slots on NPB rosters are filled
Each NPB team is allowed to carry four foreigners at a time on their active roster, with most teams employing more than four so they can rotate them based on rest/matchups.
Only the Hiroshima Carp have less than four foreigners signed for 2023.
This doesn’t take other teams out of the running but it can play a factor, rosters are set and most foreigners have been formally introduced in Japan.
If Bauer actually ends up signing with an NPB team it will likely bump another foreigner to a reserve role, which could cause problems if the player was promised a lot of playing time.
Bauer prefers remaining a content creator/internet personality
Love him or hate him, Bauer draws a crowd.
Bauer has over 830k subscribers on both his Youtube channels, and 450k followers on Twitter.
He’s been a protagonist on several of baseball’s hottest topics like the use of foreign substances by pitchersand his record long 324-game suspension (reduced to 194 games).
If he were to sign with an NPB team, it is unlikely that an NPB team would be fine with him vlogging around team facilities or pitching with just one eye open.
If you are Bauer, why not just keep making light-hearted content on Youtube instead of going to a foreign country with stricter rules?
Unless he gets a legit MLB opportunity, Bauer might just stay in the US pitching against Eric Sim.
Bauer is too problematic
Make no mistake about it, if Bauer wasn’t elite on the mound no pro team would touch him with a 10ft pole.
There isn’t a more toxic presence on the clubhouse than Bauer, who has caused problems on all possible fronts, from feuding with teammates, arguing with fans on twitter, potentially doctoring baseballs and just being described as rather unpleasant person to be around.
These are all things that no major league club desires to have but it rings especially true in japanese baseball.
NPB teams don’t like having major distractions on their team, everyone on the roster has a specific role and is expected to perform it quietly and with proper respect.
Since NPB teams are all owned by major corporate conglomerates, the goal of the team isn’t really to make a profit, but as a marketing tool to connect with local communities.
Having a guy like Bauer on your team poses a major risk to the goodwill that NPB ownership groups have worked hard to create, even if he dominates on the mound.
So what will actually go down?
It’s a lukewarm take, but I don’t think Bauer will pitch in Japan, or anywhere really.
Even if he wants to come to Japan, no NPB team will be willing to sign him.
If you want to read more about NPB: