Baseball is always a sport dependent on recent results when it comes to free agency. The New York Mets have a clear need for starting pitching, and Trevor Bauer looks like the golden child to fill that void. Is Trevor Bauer the end all be all of starting pitchers? The Mets might be able to get a steal of similar talent in Jake Odorizzi.
Negotiations for Starter Jake Odorizzi are heating up with several teams still in the mix incl Tor, LAA, Min, SDP, Bos, and NYM – and a sleeper Tampa. With that level interest, look for him to get a multi year deal. @MLBNetworkRadio
— Jim Duquette (@Jim_Duquette) December 15, 2020
Context is always key, which puts this comparison into a different light in 2020. If we had this conversation after the 2019 season, the All-Star Odorizzi might be seen as the better pitcher. 2020 completely changed the narrative as Odorizzi struggled with injuries and had an ERA over six while Bauer was the complete opposite, winning the Cy Young award.
Odorizzi is a year older than Bauer, made 192 career starts, thrown 1,042.1 innings, has a 1.24 WHIP, and a 3.92 ERA in nine seasons. Bauer has made 195 starts, thrown 1,190 innings, has a 1.27 WHIP and a 3.90 ERA in nine seasons. The statistical differences come in K/9 and FIP, where Bauer has him beat 9.7 to 8.6 and 3.85 to 4.12.
The drastic difference comes with spin rate. After being in the lackluster category in 2019, Bauer was best at spinning the baseball in 2020. His fastball was at the top of baseball while his curveball was in the top eight percent. Whether or not the substance Bauer uses is legal is a separate question, but it puts him at a distinct advantage. Odorizzi is a below-average spin rate pitcher, even during his best strikeout year in 2019.
Bauer is Good, But is He Great?
There is no denying Bauer’s tremendous 2020 Cy Young award-winning season, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. Every regular-season game Bauer pitched was against a central division team. Every AL and NL central team that made the playoffs were eliminated in the first round. The central also produced two of the three worst records in baseball: the Pittsburgh Pirates (19-41) and the Detroit Tigers (23-35). Bauer got the opportunity to make four starts against those teams and three more against the Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers, who also finished under .500.
The counter-argument is the dominance Bauer had in his one start against the Atlanta Braves in the postseason. That argument only carries weight if you think his sub-two ERA is sustainable in a full season. The real question is whether he is a Jacob deGrom caliber or Marcus Stroman caliber. Both are excellent pitchers, but one is an ace on all 30 teams, while Stroman is an ace for a third of that. If the analytics department feels Bauer’s production is in Stroman’s category, the Mets can easily bring in Odorizzi to fill their rotation.
Odorizzi is no slouch as a pitcher either. He averaged 30 starts, 165 innings, and a 3.88 ERA from 2014-2019. He never reached the “ace” category at any point but has been a quality mid-rotation starting pitcher for the last half-decade. The Mets currently have a good top of their rotation; they have to round out the back end. While the ceiling is lower with Odorizzi, the Mets would play less of a guessing game with his production.
What Do The Mets Do?
None of this is to say that Bauer will not be a good pitcher wherever he signs. There has to be some consideration on whether Bauer is worth a superior deal to what Odorizzi signs. Bauer deserves and will get a larger contract than Odorizzi. The key question is whether the difference in contract size should be equivalent to the difference between James McCann’s deal and the one J.T. Realmuto will sign?
If the contract difference between both pitchers is too much, the Mets may reconsider Bauer. This might be the current situation, which is why the Mets have shifted focus to George Springer. If the Mets feel the value of Springer and Bauer’s could equal Springer, Odorizzi, and Masahiro Tanaka, there has to be real consideration there. It is not about saving money to pay players less. It is about taking that extra money to sign a player, which may have been out of reach in a different situation.
The Mets have plenty of money to spend, but it will always be how wise, not how much, they spend it at the end of the day. If they go over the luxury tax, they barely want to cross over it, not obliterate it as some fans dream about.