The Cincinnati Reds extended a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to Trevor Bauer on Sunday, a formality for the top pitcher on the free-agent market. The Reds will receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.
Bauer is certain to decline the qualifying offer, but he must make his decision by Nov. 11. He’s expected to draw interest from many contenders who want to add the Cy Young favorite to their starting rotation.
It’s just the first step of the free agency process for Bauer, who is expected to challenge catcher JT Realmuto and center fielder George Springer for the largest annual salary this offseason. Bauer previously said that he wanted to sign one-year contracts throughout his career, but he’s softened that stance in the past year. His agent wrote on Twitter last month that Bauer is open to any deal.
Including Bauer, there were six players who received a qualifying offer this year: Realmuto, Springer, DJ LeMahieu, Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman.
The qualifying offer doesn’t affect any other offers the Reds can make to Bauer this winter. Considering that the Reds haven’t paid a pitcher more than $20 million per season since Homer Bailey agreed to a six-year, $105 million contract extension, they are viewed as longshots to retain Bauer. General manager Nick Krall said he hadn’t ruled anything out.
Bauer, for his part, said it was the most fun he’s had in a baseball season since college. He…