The Major League Baseball trade deadline is a fascinating time, which is often treated as a separate sport, a different competition. During this constructed period of heightened trade activity, an alteration to our view occurs which centers on trade value, who won the value exchange. This can be an uncomfortable conversation, rightfully so.
There is a certain dehumanizing portion of ascribing value to a player for the purpose of exchange but that is the nature of Major League Baseball and team fandom. With this understanding, it is time to turn to the potential value of Trevor Bauer if he was to be traded.
First, for a baseline, a review of Bauer’s projected surplus value. Bauer’s current salary is $13 million, and with another arbitration raise for his final season of team control will likely earn $15-17 million in 2020. If one projects him to be dealt in July there would be roughly $6 million in 2019 salary remaining plus $17 million in 2020 for a total of $23 million owed.
Over that period, the second half of 2019 and all of 2020 Bauer is projected for roughly six wins above replacement (WAR). Projections being a useful baseline but not binding. If one accepts the cost of a win at $8 million per WAR Bauer’s value would rest at roughly $48 million. Now, this is a rough estimate but Bauer should provide between $20-30 million in surplus value with the possibility for outcome outside either end of that range. For the sake of this article, this author will rely on $25 million as the projected surplus ($48 million in project value-$23 million in projected salary).
In 2019, Craig Edwards did research as to the rough value of different prospect tiers. A 50 position player being worth roughly $28 million and a 50 pitcher being worth roughly $21 million. A 50 being a prospect ranking between roughly 45-100 in 2019.
For further context that tier of prospects includes Nolan Jones types; players like Nate Pearson, Alec Bohm, and Johnathan India. Now, to narrow the players further, lets look at Astros, Yankees, and Padres as potential trade partners. Below are players who could individually headline a deal involving Bauer, these are NOT to be taken as a package the Indians could expect.
From the Padres the fits to headline a deal could be Luis Urias, Tiso Ornelas, Josh Naylor, and Hudson Potts.
From the Yankees: Deivi Garcia, Estevan Florial, and Clint Frazier.
From the Houston Astros: Corbin Martin, Yordan Alvarez, and J.B. Bukauskus.
Alas, certainly interesting talents but perhaps not as heavy a haul as one would hope. Bauer’s 2020 compensation certainly is a heavy weight on his trade value and there are certain other limits.
The first potential value suppressing factor is that Bauer has publicly noted that he is pitching at less than 100%. From Cleveland.com:
Bauer says his body is “pretty banged up,’ requiring him to spend most of his time between starts trying to get ready physically to make his next start.
Injury risk on a pitcher who may be moved is never optimal if you are trying to get your best return. One piece of commentary is that Bauer’s personality and public comments injure his trade value to an extent. While this author does not intend to discuss the comments themselves or his public persona, it is not likely too heavy a drag on value as Twitter is far more concerned with these things than front offices are when trying to win titles.
Finally, while the persona is prickly, Bauer’s innovative mind which was once viewed as a limitation is valuable to a number of organizations who emphasize innovative development, a few of the most forward thinking teams? The New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and San Diego Padres.
Perhaps the Indians will get more, than suggested above. The July 31 trade deadline has been known to increase prices based on the time-pressure and scarcity components. Still further, one may argue that surplus value is inapplicable as it relates to a #2 starter on the market in a World Series arms race. Yet, it appears that the blockbuster Bartolo Colon trade or package with 3-4 significant pieces will not be out there for the Indians.