GOODYEAR, Ariz. — In one swoop Thursday morning, Trevor Bauer made the Cleveland Indians cringe, the unemployed free-agent class think and the players’ union listen.
In addition to airing his grievances about the arbitration process and the “character assassination” he endured, Bauer presented his own radical idea for getting the money he believes he’s worth.
As free agents have struggled to land long-term deals over the past two winters, the 28-year-old believes that signing only one-year contracts would make him affordable to all 30 teams, even with an annual price tag of at least $35 million.
“I’ll go year-to-year my entire career,” said Bauer, who is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2020 season. “Why would you lock yourself in a situation that may not make you happy? I think that’s highly inefficient. Everybody is afraid of risk. Everyone is scared.
“It’s still unproven how clubs feel about it, but looking at the market, and studying it, I identified for myself personally that it’s the best route to go forward.”
Bauer figures that one-year contracts would be irresistible for all parties, particularly with the way the last two winters have gone.
“I think it solves a lot of problems in this day and age,” he said, “which is [teams’ ] increased reliance on aging curves and projection of future performance. Baseball used to pay for what you’ve done, and baseball is now shifting to projecting that they’re going to do.
“It’s very similar to how major corporations are being run. I think that players have to find a way in that environment to still maximize their value.”
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Why, if Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were willing to sign one-year contracts, does anyone believe they’d still be sitting home today?
“How much would Bryce Harper be worth on a one-year deal?” he said. “Or Dallas Keuchel. How much would Max Scherzer be worth last year to the Brewers who were one game away from the World Series and needed an ace.
“If players are willing to take more risk and shorter term, they can really drive the value up. I can’t imagine a team wouldn’t pay $40 million for a year for Harper, Machado or Scherzer.”
Still, no matter how few of his peers may share his philosophy, Bauer believes major changes are needed, assuring that players reach free agency much earlier, with teams devaluing players who reach 30 years of age.
“Obviously, something has to change at the collective bargaining table,” Bauer said. “As the players get younger and younger, and the teams value younger players, the players’ best years are when they’re being paid the least. I think something in the system needs to change how quick players get to free agency. And something needs to change how cheap teams can acquire amateur talent.”
Bauer has plenty of other ideas, too, but this was only Day 1 of spring training. There’ll be plenty of time to share his beliefs, opinions and philosophies.
Just ask him.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
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