The Dodgers have cut ties with Trevor Bauer. Los Angeles announced this evening he will no longer be part of the organization, shortly after Jeff Passan of ESPN reported (Twitter link) he was being designated for assignment.
“The Dodgers organization believes that allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence should be thoroughly investigated, with due process given to the accused,” the organization said in a statement. “From the beginning, we have cooperated fully with Major League Baseball’s investigation and strictly followed the process stipulated under MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy. Two extensive reviews of all the available evidence in this case — one by Commissioner Manfred and another by a neutral arbitrator — concluded that Mr. Bauer’s actions warranted the longest ever active player suspension in our sport for violations of this policy. Now that this process has been completed, and after careful consideration, we have decided that he will no longer be part of our organization.”
Bauer released his own statement this evening, stating that Dodgers brass had suggested as recently as yesterday he’d remain on the team (relayed by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times). “While we were unable to communicate throughout the administrative leave and arbitration process, my representatives spoke to Dodgers leadership immediately following the arbitration decision. Following two weeks of conversations around my return to the organization, I sat down with Dodgers leadership in Arizona yesterday who told me they wanted me to return and pitch for the team this year. While I am disappointed by the organization’s decision today, I appreciate the wealth of support I’ve received from the Dodgers clubhouse. I wish the players all the best and look forward to competing elsewhere.”
Bauer joined Los Angeles over the 2020-21 offseason on the heels of winning the NL Cy Young award with the Reds. He signed a three-year, $102MM guarantee that afforded him chances to opt out of the deal after each of the first two seasons. Bauer made 17 starts with a 2.59 ERA in his first season in L.A. before reports emerged that a California woman had filed for a restraining order and accused him of assaulting her during sex. He was promptly placed on paid administrative leave while the legal process played out, and he spent the remainder of the 2021 season on administrative leave by mutual agreement of MLB and the Players Association. Two Ohio women subsequently came forth with allegations that Bauer had assaulted them in prior years.
A judge denied the California woman’s request for a long-term restraining order in August 2021, finding he did not pose an ongoing threat to her safety. Bauer never faced criminal charges, with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declining to proceed with a criminal action after their investigation. “After a thorough review of the available evidence, including the civil restraining order proceedings, witness statements and the physical evidence, the People are unable to prove the relevant charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” the DA’s office said at the time.
Attention then turned to Major League Baseball’s investigation. Even in the absence of criminal charges, MLB is permitted to impose discipline if its investigation finds a player violated the joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy. The league did so last April, imposing a 324-game ban that went into effect from the date of the suspension. That would have kept Bauer out for the entire 2022-23 seasons (and a few weeks in 2024); Bauer immediately appealed, becoming the first player to appeal a suspension levied under the domestic violence policy.
The appellate process played out over the following eight months. As per the terms of the policy, the arbitration panel consisted of three individuals — one of whom was selected by the league, one selected by the Players Association, and one independent arbitrator approved by both parties. Two weeks ago, the panel announced its determination. The appellate group reduced Bauer’s suspension to 194 games, which had already been served. He was decreed immediately eligible for reinstatement. The Dodgers were given until tonight to reactivate him on their roster or cut him loose.
As the Dodgers mentioned in their statement, the panel found that Bauer had violated the Domestic Violence policy. His suspension was reduced but not overturned, and even the reduced suspension was the longest handed out to any player since the policy was introduced in August 2015. While the panel determined Bauer violated the policy, it judged MLB’s initial two-year ban to be excessive.
Suspensions under the domestic violence policy are unpaid. Bauer did not collect any salary between the date of his suspension and the end of the 2022 season. The panel also stripped him of his salary for the first 50 games of the 2023 season — a retroactive loss of salary for money he did collect while on paid administrative leave between 2021 and April ’22. After the first 50 games of the season are up, Bauer will be entitled to his remaining salary.
Bauer had been set to make $32MM this year, the final season of his contract. After accounting for the forfeited salary, he’ll be due around $22.5MM. Even with the Dodgers officially moving on, they’ll be on the hook for that money. Los Angeles’ projected payroll sits around $217MM, as calculated by Roster Resource. More meaningfully, that expenditure brings the Dodgers estimated luxury tax number within a rounding error of the base $233MM CBT threshold. Multiple reports in recent months have suggested the Dodgers would like to dip below the tax threshold this year, thereby resetting their tax bracket after two consecutive seasons of overages. Doing so at this point would require finding a way to shed salary and/or not taking on any notable additional expenditures this offseason or at the trade deadline.
As with any player designated for assignment, there’s now a seven-day window for the Dodgers to trade Bauer or place him on waivers. Bob Nightengale of USA Today unsurprisingly tweets the Dodgers didn’t find any trade interest over the past two weeks. The extremely likely outcome is the 31-year-old will be placed on release waivers between now and next Thursday. Any team claiming him would have to take on his lofty salary; that surely won’t happen, and Bauer will become a free agent if/when he officially clears waivers.
At that point, his camp can look for opportunities elsewhere. Any team that signs Bauer after he clears waivers would only be responsible for the $720K league minimum salary, with the Dodgers still on the hook for the rest of the deal. Whether any other team is willing to carry him on their roster remains to be seen.