In the midst of a quiet offseason, the Dodgers made a huge splash on Friday by coming to terms with free agent starting pitcher Trevor Bauer. Bauer, 30, won the 2020 National League Cy Young Award after leading the league in earned run average and finishing second in strikeout percentage.

Bauer, never one to shy away from the social media spotlight, announced his decision via YouTube: “Come April what matters is this team, this group of players, this group of fans and the name across our chests. This season is about making sure history remembers us as we wish to be remembered. This season is about adding to our legacy. And I can’t wait, Dodger fans.”

The Dodgers reportedly signed Bauer to a three-year deal with a potential total of $102 million. The deal is structured with opt-out clauses following each of the first two years, allowing Bauer the option to become a free agent in each of the next two offseasons. The deal is also front-loaded, and Bauer will reportedly earn $40 million in 2021 and $45 million in 2022 if he elects not to opt out of his contract.

While both of these totals would establish new records for single-season salaries, the unique structure of the deal is designed to benefit both Bauer and the Dodgers. By signing Bauer to a short-term deal with a high annual value, the Dodgers are more likely to avoid the inevitable decline associated with aging. Alternatively, if Bauer performs well in his first two years, he has the option to pursue an even more lucrative contract at a relatively young age.

Bauer has experienced several ups and downs in his career, but at his peak, he can be worth the money. Over the course of the 2018 season, Fangraphs.com evaluated his monetary worth to be $46.6 million, and in 2020 that figure would have been around $54.3 million if his performance were extrapolated to a 162-game season.

We’ll take a look at some things Dodgers fans can expect from their new ace.

The Personality

Bauer is one of the most enigmatic athletes in professional sports, and he doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. Outspoken and confident, Bauer brims with a competitive spirit on and off the field.

Bauer wears his emotions on his sleeve, and he is unafraid to challenge traditional norms of sportsmanship. Whether it’s through his controversial post-game interviews, his wild screams of victory, his Connor McGregor strut, or, you know, throwing a baseball out of Kauffman Stadium in the middle of a game, Bauer is unafraid to confront expectations.

Bauer also possesses one of the most analytical minds among professional athletes. Bauer was an early pioneer in utilizing modern video and analytical software to make data-informed adjustments. He is outspoken about the importance of understanding data and harnessing its power, and he is unafraid to use unconventional techniques to gain an advantage.

In Bauer, the Dodgers are getting one of baseball’s fiercest competitors, whose passion and hunger could fuel the Dodgers to their second straight World Series victory.

The Stuff

What makes Bauer a difference-maker on the mound is the quality of his pitches, specifically in terms of their spin rate. In 2020 Bauer led all pitchers who threw at least 1,000 pitches in fastball and slider spin rate, finishing fourth in curveball spin rate.

In 2020 Bauer increased his spin rate on fastballs and breaking balls while lowering his spin rate on off-speed pitches. Spin influences ball movement, and higher spin rates on fastballs and breaking balls generally lead to better results. Bauer reached career highs in 2020 in swing-and-miss percentage for his fastballs and chase percentage for his breaking and off-speed pitches.

Graph from Baseball Savant
Graph from Baseball Savant
Graph from Baseball Savant
Graph from Baseball Savant
Graph from Baseball Savant
Graph from Baseball Savant

Bauer’s pitches are aided not only by their overall spin rates but also by his spin efficiency, which measures how much of his spin is “active” spin that translates to pitch movement. In 2020, 95.7% of Bauer’s fastball spin rate contributed to movement, and 100% of his curveball spin rate contributed to movement.

Graph from Baseball Savant
Graph from Baseball Savant

Bauer’s ability to spin the baseball effectively yielded impressive results. According to Fangraphs.com, Bauer ranked second in the NL in both fastball and slider value in 2020.

In Bauer, the Dodgers add a difference-maker on the mound who can dominate opposing hitters.

The Fan Engagement

By signing Bauer, the Dodgers reassert their position at the top of the NL West. After the SoCal rival San Diego Padres made moves to bolster their rotation with former all-stars Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, the Dodgers were slow to respond. However, with the addition of Bauer, the Dodgers send a clear message that they are committed to winning and building off their 2020 success.

Not only does Bauer’s signing make the Dodgers a more engaging team from a performance standpoint, but Bauer himself actively engages with fans. Bauer frequently takes to Twitter and YouTube to engage with fans and make his thoughts and reactions accessible to his fan base.

With Bauer, the Dodgers become a more exciting team, a better team and a more competitive team.

Dodgers fans can look forward to watching their new starting pitcher take the mound soon during Spring Training. The first Dodgers Spring Training game is scheduled for Feb. 27.