The View Beyond Pluto: Why Trevor Bauer's 1-Year Contract Plan Could Be Bad for Baseball

Feb 20, 2019

Cleveland Indians star pitcher Trevor Bauer has been making headlines in the past week. For the second year, Bauer went to arbitration over his contract.

WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says one thing that came out of the hearing is Bauer's declaration that he will seek one-year contracts for the rest of his career. Pluto says that's bad for the game. 

In an arbitration hearing, a player’s representatives make the case why the player should be paid what he’s asking, and then the ball club’s representatives make the case why the player should be paid what the club is offering.

Bauer won the hearing, getting the $13 million contract he asked for instead of the $11 million the Indians had offered him.

In the aftermath, Bauer accused the Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department of “character assassination” by criticizing his social media behavior.

'They got into some off-color things he said [on social media], Pluto said. "I will back Trevor [when he said], 'You know, that’s out of line.'"

A flawed process
Pluto said overall, the arbitration process is flawed.

"What Trevor feels is 'I want every dollar I can get right now'"

“It used to be that the teams would go in and do this, but then the player would get mad about what the team said. So now the baseball association has these kind of hired guns that go in and do it.” 

One year deals
But Pluto said an even more important issue came out of the arbitration hearing -- Bauer is insisting that he will only sign one-year contracts for the rest of his career. Pluto said many players want multi-year deals as a safety net should they get hurt. But Bauer believes he can leverage top-dollar by demanding more money each season.

“Trevor feels, because of his unique training thing and all that, that ‘I do not get sore arms. I will not get hurt. Therefore, I can play for $30 million. $40 million. $50 million.’ 

"What Trevor feels is ‘I want every dollar I can get right now.'"

Pluto said he believes Bauer got the idea from LeBron James, who signed a similar deal with Cavs. He signed a one-year contract guaranteed, and other year as an option. But, Pluto said it sets a bad precedent for players and the sport. 

A tough spot for teams
For example, Bauer's one-year contract demand has made him difficult to trade. The Indians have reportedly been shopping around a starting pitcher -- notably Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. Pluto said the trade rumors surrounding Bauer dried up when he went to arbitration a second year in a row.

“I think it’s because people sat down and looked at Trevor Bauer’s situation and said, OK: He took them to arbitration in 2018, actually won there. Took them in 2019, won again. He basically said he’s going into arbitration in 2020 no matter what.”

Bauer is a free agent after the 2020 season, and Pluto said it makes teams nervous to want to acquire him becuase they know it will be an annual negotiation,  arbitration hearing...or Bauer could just leave and sign somewhere else every year.

Pluto said the one-year deals have never been done before in baseball, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out with Bauer.