Facing Deadline, Dodgers Cut Ties With Trevor Bauer
Trevor Bauer’s tumultuous time in Los Angeles is finished. Two weeks after an arbitrator ended Bauer’s suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, effectively reinstating him, the Dodgers issued a statement saying he would “no longer be a part of this organization.”
Officially, Bauer, whose 324-game suspension was reduced by the arbitrator to 194 games, was designated for assignment, a procedural move that excises him from the organization and gives the Dodgers seven days in which to trade or release him. It is an expensive move because the Dodgers are required to pay his $22.5 million salary for 2023 — a figure that was reduced from its full amount as part of the arbitration process.
If the Dodgers fail to trade Bauer — the expected outcome — he will be released, and the next step would be to see whether another club would be willing to take a chance on a historically divisive player who wore out his welcome in Arizona and Cleveland, won a National League Cy Young Award in Cincinnati during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and leveraged that success to sign a three-year, $102 million deal in Los Angeles.
Bauer, 31, is eligible to play immediately. If another club does sign him, that team will be responsible only for the major-league minimum salary of $720,000, with the Dodgers paying the rest of the $22.5 million.
The choice to walk away from Bauer comes after a tenure in Los Angeles that soured almost immediately. In July 2021, only months after he had officially joined the Dodgers, M.L.B. began an investigation after sexual assault allegations were leveled by multiple women. Bauer, who was accused of punching and choking the women in what he claims was consensual rough sex, has not been convicted of any crimes but was eventually found by M.L.B. to have violated its domestic violence policy. The league does not share the details of its investigations.
An independent arbitrator, Martin F. Scheinman, was chosen by the league and its players’ union to hear Bauer’s appeal. Scheinman determined Bauer had violated the policy but reduced the suspension from 324 games to 194, effectively giving Bauer credit for time served.
Even with the reduction, the suspension was the longest of its kind in M.L.B. history, and Bauer will end up having forfeited $37.5 million in salary, which is the highest penalty to come out of the league’s joint domestic violence and sexual assault policy.
While Bauer’s M.L.B. future is up in the air, the Dodgers made it abundantly clear on Friday that it would not come with their team. After the arbitrator’s decision, Los Angeles had 14 days to either reinstate Bauer to their 40-man roster or designate him for assignment. The team chose the latter.
“Now that this process has been completed, and after careful consideration, we have decided that he will no longer be part of our organization,” the Dodgers said in a statement.
Bauer, who was among the top free agents before the 2021 season, joined the Dodgers after what the team described as a thorough investigation into previous incidents, including two high-profile social media conflicts in which women accused him of harassment.
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But things unraveled quickly. Only three months into his first season in Los Angeles, sexual assault accusations began to surface and Bauer was placed on paid administrative leave. He has not appeared in a game since June 28, 2021.
In the team’s statement, the Dodgers said they “fully cooperated with Major League Baseball’s investigation” and noted that “two extensive reviews of all the available evidence in this case — one by Commissioner Manfred and another by the neutral arbitrator — concluded that Mr. Bauer’s actions warranted the longest ever active player suspension in our sport for violations of this policy.”
Not long after the Dodgers’ release, Bauer issued his own statement, through his lawyers, claiming that as recently as Thursday, the Dodgers told him they wanted him back.
“Following two weeks of conversations around my return to the organization, I sat down with Dodgers leadership in Arizona yesterday who told me that they wanted me to return and pitch for the team this year,” Bauer said in the statement. “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.”
While the meeting in Arizona with a subset of team leadership did occur Thursday — the club’s first conversations with the pitcher since July 2021 — a high-ranking Dodgers official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, denied that the team told Bauer they wanted him back, noting that their decision to designate him for assignment Friday speaks for itself.
Bauer was Arizona’s first-round pick out of U.C.L.A. in the 2011 draft. He pitched just four games in the majors for the Diamondbacks in 2012 before the club dealt him to Cleveland. There, while helping to pitch Cleveland to the World Series in 2016, he suffered a cut while working on a drone that was significant enough to force him from a playoff game that fall in Toronto.
Cleveland dealt him to Cincinnati at the trade deadline in July 2019, three days after he angered Manager Terry Francona and others by throwing a baseball over the center field fence in frustration during a game in Kansas City as the manager was walking to the mound to remove him.
The Dodgers had just won the 2020 World Series when they signed him as a free agent that winter to join a rotation that also was to include Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Julio Urías (who served his own 20-game suspension for a violation of the league’s domestic violence policy in 2019). Bauer was coming off his Cy Young-winning season with the Reds.
Known for having one of the game’s better clubhouse cultures, the Dodgers gambled that by assimilating Bauer into their mix, they could overcome his history of on- and off-field issues.
It was an experiment that lasted only 17 starts, and it cost the Dodgers more than $64 million.
Benjamin Hoffman contributed reporting.