The Mets have had an eventful off-season under their new owner, Steve Cohen, adding one dynamic star, several other solid players and subtracting one disgraced general manager. But their hopes of strutting into spring training as the undisputed winners of the winter will not be fulfilled after their final chance at a big prize slipped away.
Trevor Bauer, the best pitcher on the free agent market, turned down an offer from the Mets to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday in a deal that will give the Dodgers, the defending World Series champion, one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball.
Bauer, a 30-year-old right-hander, confirmed his decision to join the Dodgers in an elaborately produced video posted to his YouTube channel. The video, set to dramatic music, teases New York fans by briefly flashing a Mets jersey with Bauer’s name stitched across it, then ends with a shot of him in a Dodgers uniform saying, “This season is about adding to our legacy, and I can’t wait, Dodger fans.”
Multiple news reports said that the deal was for three years and $102 million guaranteed, and that it included an option for Bauer to opt out after each year. He will make $40 million in 2021 and $45 million in 2022, according to ESPN.
Bauer had narrowed his search to a handful of teams this winter, but by Thursday only two remained, according to Bauer’s agent, Rachel Luba. Those were believed to be the Mets and the Dodgers, and expectations among Mets fans soared. But like George Springer, the free-agent outfielder who signed last month with the Toronto Blue Jays instead of the Mets, Bauer decided to go elsewhere.
Bauer, the National League Cy Young Award Winner in 2020, will join a Dodgers pitching rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, David Price (who opted out of last season because of coronavirus concerns), Julio Urias and Trevor May.
The Dodgers’ pitching staff, including relievers, led Major League Baseball in team earned run average over the last two years, recording a 3.02 last season. Los Angeles has led the National League in E.R.A. for four years running.
Bauer went 5-4 with a 1.73 E.R.A. for the Cincinnati Reds in last year’s pandemic-shortened season. He was the only pitcher in M.L.B. with two shutouts.
Using a scientific approach that relies heavily on data analysis and high-tech instruments that measure every aspect of his windup and delivery, Bauer is a student of pitching — constantly analyzing and adjusting virtually everything he does on the mound.
It is not a new passion: In high school in California, Bauer played chess with his physics teacher at lunch; whenever their games ended quickly, Bauer and the teacher would discuss the physics of baseball. As a major leaguer, he has been open about his willingness to share his evolving knowledge with teammates and opponents alike.
In nine seasons over all, including five in Cleveland, Bauer has compiled a 75-64 record with a 3.90 E.R.A. At the same time, he has gained a reputation as one of baseball’s most outspoken players, someone who would banter with strangers on Twitter but also vigorously defend the game against critics who bemoan the growing focus on strikeouts, home runs and walks.
At times, his outspoken nature made headlines, on topics ranging from his views on President Barack Obama and President Donald J. Trump, his rejection of the idea that human activity can influence climate change, and his frustration with what he considers the “liberal slanted” news media.
Two years ago, he engaged in a contentious exchange with a female college student that resulted in several of Bauer’s followers attacking the woman online. Bauer later issued a statement saying he would “wield the responsibility of my platform” with more care in the future. He is one of the few players to employ a woman as his agent, and he has contributed to women’s charities, including one that supports female software coders.
Even without landing Bauer, the Mets had an off-season that was quite productive. In January they acquired Francisco Lindor, one of the best shortstops in baseball, in a trade with Cleveland that also yielded the starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
The Mets also signed James McCann, a top catcher with the Chicago White Sox, to a four-year contract worth approximately $40 million, and added the free-agent pitchers Trevor May and Aaron Loup to provide bullpen depth. Most recently, they traded for Joey Lucchesi, a left-handed pitcher who was with the San Diego Padres.
And there are still several free-agent starting pitchers on the market, including Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Jake Arrieta and Gio Gonzalez. The Mets could also try to trade for a starter. Any of those options would require far less money than signing Bauer, potentially leaving the Mets enough cash to add another position player. They have been linked to discussions about the free-agent outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., a defensive specialist with limited offensive production.