2020 MLB Free Agency Recap and Season Preview


@baueroutage / Instagram

Paul Brady, Staff Writer

In response to the COVID-19 virus, almost every professional sports league has been forced to alter its schedule. Arguably the most disrupted “COVID sports season” was the 60-game MLB season which started in July and ended in October. The Los Angeles Dodgers were crowned as World Series champions over the lower-payroll Tampa Bay Rays. Besides impacting fan participation and the playoff structure, the 2020 baseball season seems to be the first thing one recalls when thinking about any given player’s value. This past season, being the most recent , remains fresh in the minds of players, coaches, front office members, and fans. Ultimately, the 60 Major League Baseball games are not enough to evaluate players due to the limited sample size, and commissioner Rob Manfred must do more in order to make baseball better in 2021.

By keeping the 2020 free agency class as planned, Rob Manfred, along with the MLB, showed a desire to move forward with baseball despite COVID-19 implications. The pandemic, among other factors, has raised the question as to whether or not Manfred should have delayed free agency. After all, there seems to be a distorted view of the top players’ value in the league, especially after Trevor Bauer signed the largest contract in history a few weeks ago. But it was the way that Bauer went about his free agency that intrigued me, especially as a die-hard Mets fan. On February 5th, Bauer’s website supposedly malfunctioned leaving a Mets hat giveaway on it. This incident led most to believe that Bauer would eventually sign with New York, but quite the opposite happened. At roughly 3:00 pm, Bauer posted a Youtube video that ended in him announcing his agreement with the Dodgers, and that he “can’t wait” for the spring. This left me heartbroken, and it left the Dodgers with the best pitching staff in baseball.

Bauer posted a 1.73 earned run average in 2020, the lowest ever for a single season in his career. Fans and players have speculated that Bauer’s recent surge in 2020 had to do with his imminent free-agent status. Marcus Stroman, the All-Star pitcher for the New York Mets, tweeted on December 24th, 2020 that “Many players can be great for 60 games. But can they be great for 162 games? Year after year? Longevity is essential at the highest level.” Evidently, Stroman was alluding to all of the hype around the league’s most highly regarded free agent in Trevor Bauer. In an interview with media personality Rob Friedman a couple of weeks ago, Stroman said that Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball and that it is “no debate.” In 2019, the two-time Cy Young award winner and former rookie of the year signed a five-year $137.5 million deal. Bauer’s deal with Los Angeles is worth $102 million for three years. Do the math, it doesn’t add up.

That said, Trevor Bauer brings more to the table than just pitching. He also runs Momentum, a Youtube channel designed to give fans insight into the lives of prominent athletes. Recognized universally because of his “vlogs”, Bauer seeks to make baseball more entertaining for the next generation of players and fans. He has also created dissent between himself and the commissioner in the past few years. For example, early into the 2020 season, Joe Kelly of the Los Angeles Dodgers was suspended for eight games for mocking his opponent after a strikeout. Trevor Bauer responded by uploading a video promising to wear cleats with the saying “Free Joe Kelly” on them. Manfred threatened Bauer moments later, saying he would be treated with a suspension of his own if he wore the cleats. All in all, Rob Manfred needs to make up his mind: does he want baseball to progress and be lively, or does he want baseball to decline into a dead sport? The way I see it is when Manfred walks into a room, fun leaves.

Not everything is about Trevor Bauer though, no matter how much controversy he has started. Going into December, other notable free agents included George Springer, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, Marcus Semien, Charlie Morton, and Didi Gregorious. Springer, who was the centerfielder for the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros, signed a six-year deal with the Blue Jays. Shortstop Marcus Semien also went to Toronto. Veteran right-handed pitcher Charlie Morton agreed to a one-year, $15 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. Morton will join lefty Max Fried and ace Mike Soroka on possibly the league’s most underrated pitching staff. However, many free agents opted to stick with their recent team including Ozuna, Realmuto, and Gregorious. What do these three stars have in common? They play in the National League East which has turned into hands down the most competitive division in the MLB. The 2020-2021 offseason undoubtedly enhanced the reputation of the Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, and Nationals. 

On a final note, spring training is underway! Pitchers and catchers reported on February 17th which unofficially marks the start of the season. Although the 2020 free agency did not go as planned for the Mets, it was awfully entertaining and I cannot wait to see how this year plays out. My personal projections include the Padres winning the AL West, the Dodgers barely getting a wildcard spot, the Mets winning the NL East, and the Blue Jays topping the Yankees for the AL East. Could this all be wishful thinking?