Let the Trevor Bauer bidding begin.
The right-hander rejected Cincinnati’s qualifying offer Wednesday and became a free agent and will be among the most sought-after pitchers available this offseason.
Bauer’s agent, Rachel Luba, announced Bauer’s intentions on Twitter, saying, “Why wait for the QO to expire to state the obvious … [Bauer] has rejected the QO, but not the Reds [and] he looks forward to speaking with them [and] all other interested teams [through] free agency.”
That could include both the Yankees and the Mets.
Players who received the qualifying offer — among them DJ LeMahieu of the Yankees and the Mets’ Marcus Stroman — have until Nov. 11 to accept the offer, which is worth $18.9 million this year.
Bauer’s rejection of the offer was expected, with the 29-year-old considered the front-runner to win the NL Cy Young Award following a career-best season.
While the Mets are certainly hoping to add to their rotation with Jacob deGrom and not much else as Noah Syndergaard recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees are also in need of reinforcements, with Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ all free agents, leaving little behind Gerrit Cole.
With the Yankees widely believed to be trying to stay below the $210 million luxury-tax threshold, they may not be major players in the Bauer sweepstakes.
Bauer also has a bitter history with Cole, his former UCLA teammate. They didn’t get along in college and Bauer implied Cole and other pitchers used foreign substances to increase spin rates while pitching for the scandal-plagued Astros.
Bauer has since said he has no problems with Cole now and praised him on Twitter during the postseason, when Cole pitched well in defeat on three days’ rest against the Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS.
“Props for that performance,’’ Bauer wrote. “Anyone who is willing to come out on short rest to put his team on his back and try and win a must win playoff game has my respect.”
Regardless of the Yankees’ interest, Bauer could also help set the market in this unusual offseason, with the sport dealing with the effects of the economic fallout of the COVID pandemic and the unknown of when revenue might recover.
If they decide not to pursue Bauer seriously, Tanaka is a good candidate to return to The Bronx. Another potential target, Kevin Gausman, also received a qualifying offer from the Giants and there is a chance he might take it.
However they decide to acquire it, the Yankees will be looking for more depth behind Cole and inexperienced arms such as Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt and perhaps Domingo German, who is coming off a suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence protocols in 2019. Luis Severino, like Syndergaard, is expected back from elbow surgery during the season.
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