In the 2018/19 season, the Black Cats brought in a host of players as they looked to bounce straight back to the second division at the first time of asking.
They signed the likes of Tom Flanagan, Jon McLaughlin, Charlie Wyke, and Will Grigg and had mixed success with their business, although they failed to land promotion at the end of the season.
One of the players they snapped up that summer was central defender Jack Baldwin, who arrived at the Stadium of Light from Peterborough.
Jack Ross was the manager at the time and said: “Jack is proven in this league and he’s at a good age with his best years ahead of him, and he has a hunger to improve and do well. He sees this as a big opportunity and has the core attributes we have been looking for.”
He quickly established himself as a regular fixture in the team and played 34 times in the third tier throughout the course of the campaign, making 42 appearances in total, with journalist Josh Bunting once describing him as “outstanding.”
However, they then opted to loan him out to Salford in League Two, much to the frustration of some of the fanbase, before the Black Cats decided to release him in 2020, allowing the defender to join Bristol Rovers on a free transfer, as Phil Parkinson seemingly did not have the player in his plans.
After a year with Rovers, Baldwin sealed a move to Premiership side Ross County in the summer of 2021 and then-manager Malky Mackay claimed that he is in the “prime of his career“, which has been proven by his impressive performances on the pitch.
He averaged a SofaScore rating of 6.88 in his debut campaign as he played 30 times in the Scottish top-flight, making 5.2 clearances per game. This term, he has averaged a rating of 7.02 across six outings – making 4.2 clearances and 5.4 tackles and interceptions per match.
Meanwhile, no natural Sunderland centre-back with five or more appearances has averaged a score higher than 6.88 in the Championship this term and that was also the case in League One last term – with Bailey Wright leading the way on both fronts.
This suggests that Baldwin would be the club’s top performing central defender, or at least on par with Wright, in his current form, which is why allowing him to leave for nothing was a blunder by the Black Cats.
Sunderland could have held out hope for the 6 foot 1 defender until he hit the prime years of his career and then enjoyed his impressive defensive talents on the pitch. Instead, they received £0 for him and Ross County are now benefitting on the pitch in Scotland from their mistake.
They should regret ditching the enforcer and may be wondering how well he would be doing in the current team under Tony Mowbray.