The Trevor Bauer-Angels connection that has been rampant all winter appears to be no longer.
According to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels “aren’t in on Trevor Bauer but still expect to beef up starting rotation”. In Torres’ piece, she cites numerous sources and lists several reasons why Bauer won’t end up in Anaheim. First and foremost, the Angels current financial situation. The club’s luxury tax payroll currently sits at $186.5 million, which gives the club less than $25 million to spend before hitting the luxury tax.
Bauer, who is seeking a contract with a $36 million Annual Average Value (AAV), would almost certainly put the Angels above the $210 million luxury tax threshold. The Angels did run out a franchise-high $194 million luxury tax payroll in 2020 (pre-COVID) but there’s no indication that Angels owner Arte Moreno would go above-and-beyond that figure. From a strict financial sense, the Bauer connection doesn’t work and likely never made much sense in the first place.
But there’s an added layer to this Bauer-Angels connection. Bauer’s ugly history with Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, his former pitching coach with Cleveland from 2013-2017, is well-known. You can read more about that relationship from a 2019 Sports Illustrated piece. According to Torres, however, the relationship appears to be completely untenable. According to Torres:
“The relationship between Bauer and Callaway is believed to be eroded beyond repair, according to a person with knowledge of Bauer’s current negotiations.”
This should come as no surprise as the two have drastically different viewpoints on pitching philosophy. Bauer also has a lengthy history of character issues that extend beyond just the relationship with Callaway. Perhaps then, it should come as no surprise that Bauer’s relationship and character issues are getting in the way of a potential fit in Anaheim.
As far as where the Angels go from here, there are still some rotation options in free agency, albeit less appealing than Bauer. Jake Odorizzi, who has already been linked to the Angels, makes plenty of sense. James Paxton could also be a viable option but brings significantly higher injury risk than Odorizzi. With Masahiro Tanaka likely heading back to Japan, the market is about to get even thinner. Beyond these three, the list of remaining starters are generally back-end starters, which the Angels seemingly have plenty of.
A trade for a frontline starter seems unlikely, given the potentially bananas price tag for guys like Luis Castillo or German Marquez. In a tweet on Wednesday night, Torres all-but shot down the idea of this scenario, citing the lack of prospect capital to make it work. That means the Angels will enter the season without a true frontline arm and try to make it work with lesser options.
The Angels generally neglected starting pitching for the past half-decade and it showed. No rotation has posted fewer Wins Above Replacement than the Angels since 2016. The club better have another move up their sleeve or they’re playing a dangerous game once again in 2021.