Cincinnati Reds: Abandon Trevor Bauer and embrace Sonny Gray

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 27: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 27: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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Reds starter Sonny Gray is statistically better than Trevor Bauer.

There hasn’t been a more intriguing free agent on the market than Trevor Bauer in recent memory. Is it because what he’s done on the field? Hoisting the Cincinnati Reds‘ first ever Cy Young? Yeah, that has a lot to do with it.

Bauer is one of the most controversial players out there. If Bauer is wearing your teams uniform, you love him. If he’s on the bump against you, it’s the exact opposite emotion you feel radiating towards him.

Perhaps it’s his personality. Bauer has his own brand, created essentially on his own. Seeing Bauer’s face is almost unavoidable, and kudos to him. I don’t remember a player who’s marketed himself quite as well as Bauer.

Not only does Trevor Bauer market himself, he’s good at it. I’ve had a “send it” shirt in my cart from his online store for months now. Bauer’s not only selling you himself, he’s selling you his ideas which are also controversial.

Personally, I love Bauer I think he’s great for baseball. I think he’s great for Cincinnati. He gives the Reds a level of exposure it hasn’t garnered in quite a while. From his behind the scenes vlog, to his interactions with fans, and his constant challenge of authority. Bauer is constantly challenging others with his opinions.

Besides being a stud on the hill, Trevor Bauer just seems like a normal dude who most fans feel like they can relate to. It’s another reason I think fans gravitate towards him. I could talk about Bauer all day, and I would hate to see Bauer in another uniform, but I think Reds fans, myself included, need to adjust to the idea of him donning another uniform next season.

At some point, if you’re the Cincinnati Reds, you need to redirect all the energy in the front office into what you do have, instead of what you may have. Essentially the front office needs to just go ahead and assume Trevor Bauer is as good as gone… which he probably is.

What you do have is Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray under team control through 2023. Those are two pretty good arms; arms that I would bet almost every team in baseball would love to add to their rotation.

Bauer has worked extremely hard, and that success paid off for him in 2020. Let’s take a step back though and take it with a grain of salt. What Bauer did in 2020 wasn’t normal, not only was it not normal for him statistically, it wasn’t a normal season whatsoever.

Trevor Bauer is going to get a monster payday solely based on 11 starts. Under normal circumstances, a pitcher is getting his 11th start in the second month of the season. According to powerrankingsguru.com, Bauer also benefited from facing the lowest rated strength of schedule in all of baseball.

The reason 2020 is simply a statistical anomaly can be backed up by facts. One simple glance at Bauer’s stat line at FanGraphs will tell you everything you need to know. What Bauer did last season wasn’t atypical of a Trevor Bauer season.

Bauer does strike out a lot of guys; that’s one constant. He also usually eats up about between 170-200 innings, which is desirable in a starter. The one difference maker being the key stat that every pro or amateur analyst looks at, and that’s ERA.

Some younger stat heads would argue ERA isn’t important, and it’s a useless stat. That’s where I disagree. The job of a pitcher is to not allow runs, so to me it’s kind of important.

Bauer is a guy for his career who normally hovers around a 4.00 ERA, which isn’t awful, but that’s not a number to which you assign $20M-$25M. The Reds need to avoid getting into an eventual bidding war with Los Angeles and the New York Mets.

If the price is right, which it most certainly won’t be, then I’m more than okay with the Reds bringing Bauer back. Some organization is going to give Bauer a lot of money, and it may be a mistake; one the Reds need to avoid.

Sonny Gray on the other hand is a guy, like Bauer, who has also been around the block a time or two. Gray though is only going to account for about $20M, but for two seasons not one. Gray has a stat line very similar to Bauer according to FanGraphs.

Gray sports a slightly lower ERA at 3.54 to Bauer’s 3.90. Sonny Gray also posted a higher WAR at 18.8 against Bauer’s 17.5. If two players were to be considered almost completely equal statistically 99 times out of 100, I’m taking the player who costs half as much.

The perfect Reds rotation in 2021. Next

The biggest mistake the Cincinnati Reds could make would be signing Trevor Bauer to a huge one-year deal based off the 2020 season. You can keep Gray around, and divert the money the Reds would have given Bauer to other positions of need. That is the move that keeps Cincinnati contending in 2021.