What does the Trevor Bauer signing mean for the NL East and the Phillies?

MLB: SEP 30 NL Wild Card Series – Reds at Braves
ATLANTA, GA Ð SEPTEMBER 30: Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (27) looks in for the sign during the National League Wild Card Series game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves on September 30th, 2020 at Truist Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer has officially signed with the Dodgers (and not the Mets). How does this deal impact the Phillies?

Last night, baseball Twitter went into a frenzy as it looked like the New York Mets had signed Trevor Bauer.

However, Bob Nightengale’s report soon turned out to be wrong. John Heyman announced today that Bauer would be signing a three-year, $102 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On the surface, this seems like good news for the Phillies. Simply put, Trevor Bauer is a good pitcher, and he would have made the Mets a better team. Mets being good = bad for the Phillies. That’s the first lesson we all learn in Phillies-fan school.

However, I don’t think this helps the Phillies as much as you might think. Here’s why.

The Mets are already so much better than the Phillies

This might be a hard pill to swallow, but the Mets are already a lot better than the Phillies. FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projects that the Mets will win about 11-12 more games than the Phillies next year. Clay Davenport, founder of Baseball Prospectus, predicts the Mets will finish 8 games ahead of the Phillies.

In other words, the Mets are going to be really hard to catch. The Mets are so far out of the Phillies’ league right now that it doesn’t really matter who they sign. Sure, the Phillies’ odds of winning the division are slightly better now. But let’s face it. The Mets are going to make the playoffs in 2021 with or without Bauer.

The Phillies need to focus on competing with the Braves and the Nationals for the second NL Wild Card spot. And that race won’t really be affected by the Trevor Bauer signing.

Will the Mets target another starter?

The Mets already have an excellent starting rotation, perhaps even the best in the league. They don’t need another starting pitcher. Therefore, they were probably pursuing Bauer for his star status and not to fill a hole on their roster. However, if the Mets do target another starting pitcher, it could end up hurting the Phillies.

Just yesterday, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com suggested that the Phillies could consider signing one of James Paxton, Jake Odorizzi, and Taijuan Walker. Now that Bauer is off the market, the Mets could swoop in and compete with the Phillies for those pitchers. If the Mets join the bidding war for those guys, it could drive up the price past a number that the Phillies are willing to pay.

The Bauer deal might have actually hurt the Mets in 2022

Bauer is a talented pitcher. That much is undeniable. But he might not really be worth $30-$40 million per season.

Over his career, Bauer has only had two seasons with an ERA under four, and his career 3.90 ERA is more in line with a third starter than a true ace. 2020 was the best season of his career, but it was a shortened season and the competition he faced was notably weak.

In 2022, many of the Mets’ best players will enter free agency: Francisco Lindor, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Michael Conforto. If the team had to give Bauer a massive contract, it might have hindered their efforts to re-sign those players. All of those guys have the potential to be as good or better than Bauer, but none of them (except maybe Lindor) will earn as much money as Bauer did. The Mets will be able to spend their money more efficiently without Trevor Bauer on the payroll.

Photo Credit: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire