In an interview with KTAR radio on Wednesday, Arizona Diamondbacks Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick made a few, well, interesting comments regarding the team’s top prospect, right-hander Trevor Bauer.
As blogged by Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic, Kendrick was deliberate with his word choice, stating, “In an employer/employee situation it’s incumbent on employee to make adjustments to satisfy the needs of the employer.”
Rather than focusing on Bauer’s performance this season, Kendrick executed a crisp, under-the-breath burn by calling the 21-year-old’s character into question. Before this all unfolded on Wednesday, I had never read anything that contends Bauer is aloof or problematic in any sense—except for that situation with Miguel Montero in early July.
But the more I thought about Kendrick’s comment, I quickly realized that what he said makes a lot of sense.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft out of UCLA, Bauer, does everything on the baseball field in a unique way in some manner. From his pre-game routine of 400’-plus long-toss to his extreme views of pitching as an amalgamation of physics and craft to his employment of an unorthodox, torque-oriented delivery, the right-hander seemingly wants to stand out, for better or for worse, with everything he does.
And I think that’s what prompted Kendrick’s cut-throat words; while it’s great that Bauer was so successful in the minor leagues this season and captured the organization’s pitcher of the year award, how he handled the adversity associated with his unimpressive month in the majors clearly rubbed the front office the wrong way.
First of all, it’s apparent that Bauer has a false sense of entitlement, something to which Miguel Montero would likely attest. Prior to his first big-league start, the recent call-up requested a one-on-one chat to inform the veteran catcher of the game he would like called.
Understandably irked by the rookie's unusual demand for such an accommodation, Montero responded to the incident by saying,
"We need to talk and I've got to get to know him and he's got to get to know me," Montero said. "I need to know what he likes to do but at the same time, it's not easy. ... Rookies coming up from the minors, they pretty much let you guide them. This is different.
"It's like, OK, he's got to guide me with what he wants to do. That's OK as long as the results are good. But when things don't work out the way you expect, it gets a little frustrating."
Kendrick conveyed a similar frustration during the radio interview, especially with his final thought on the issue:
“…I think we all need to grow up and mature and learn from our elders and hopefully Trevor will recognize the need to do that to become an outstanding Major League player. The talent is there, I think there’s no doubt of that.”
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and posit that Montero and Kendrick aren’t the only individuals frustrated with Bauer.
In three of his four starts this season in the major leagues, the right-hander was unable to pitch beyond the fourth inning, as long at-bats and excessive walks led to high pitch counts and early departures.
Rather than attacking opposing hitters and trusting his stuff, Bauer seemingly fell into the habit on nibbling at the strike zone, trying to execute unnecessary and ineffective pitches (such as his "reverse slider") for no logical reason. At times, he has seemed more concerned with proving something to himself rather than the improving the team as a whole.
Kendrick’s words also suggest that the organization requested Bauer do something differently—a request that was presumably met with resistance. Now I understand that Bauer is a creature of bizarre habits and has been highly successful this season. But there comes a point when something clearly is not working and change is required; pitchers are forced to be creative, make adjustments and even reinvent themselves in order to stay ahead of opposing hitters.
And if that’s the case, I can’t say I blame the organization for their distaste, as well as their decision to exclude Bauer from their slew of September call-ups.
If Bauer can’t or won’t grow up, the Diamondbacks should cash in and trade the promising right-hander this offseason before his reputation is thoroughly tarnished.
Kendrick has made it clear: The ball is in the 21-year-old’s court.
Your move, Bauer.