Trevor Bauer’s two-year suspension from Major League Baseball was reduced Thursday, and now the Dodgers have two weeks to restore him to their roster or release him.
An arbitrator reduced Bauer’s suspension from 324 to 194 games and reinstated him immediately. He lost $37.5 million in salary from his $102-million Dodgers contract.
Had the suspension been upheld in full, Bauer would have lost $60 million. Even with the reduction, the suspension is the longest under baseball’s policy on sexual assault and domestic violence.
“While we believe a longer suspension was warranted, MLB will abide by the neutral arbitrator’s decision,” Major League Baseball said in a statement.
Bauer forfeited his salary for the final 144 games of the 2022 season and the first 50 games of the 2023 season. However, the arbitrator is allowing him to play for those first 50 games, in part because of his cooperation in repeatedly agreeing to an investigative leave during which he missed the last half of the 2021 season.
Under MLB rules, when a player is reinstated from the restricted list out of season, his team has 14 days to activate him. That gives the Dodgers until Jan. 6 to decide, although the remaining $22.5 million of his salary is guaranteed whether they activate him or release him.
The Dodgers have cited the uncertainty over their financial liability to Bauer as one reason for their relative lack of activity in adding players this winter. The team was unaware of any decision on the appeal until shortly before the ruling was announced.
“We have just been informed of the arbitrator’s ruling and will comment as soon as practical,” the Dodgers said in a statement.
Bauer’s first public reaction came in a two-sentence tweet in which he promoted his video operation and then said: “Can’t wait to see y’all at a stadium soon!”
His agent and two of his attorneys later issued this statement: “While we are pleased that Mr. Bauer has been reinstated immediately, we disagree that any discipline should have been imposed. That said, Mr. Bauer looks forward to his return to the field, where his goal remains to help his team win a World Series.”
He last pitched for the Dodgers on June 28, 2021, the day before a San Diego woman asked for a restraining order against him, alleging he had sexually assaulted her. The league put Bauer on investigative leave that week and suspended him last April, and in the interim two other women told the Washington Post of similar experiences with Bauer. He denied wrongdoing with all three women.
Bauer immediately appealed, and an arbitration hearing akin to a trial began in May. Shawn Holley, one of Bauer’s attorneys, told a Los Angeles court in August that the hearing would involve “voluminous” evidence and could include as many as 22 witnesses. The Post reported Thursday that two of Bauer’s three accusers were among the witnesses to testify.
On Feb. 11, 2021, the Dodgers signed Bauer, a former UCLA star and at the time the defending National League Cy Young Award winner, to a three-year, $102-million contract through the 2023 season. He pitched in 17 games in 2021 and has been on leave or suspension for the Dodgers’ last 243 regular-season games.
Of the 16 players suspended since the sexual assault and domestic violence policy took effect in 2015, he became the only one to appeal. He also was the only one with more than one publicly known accuser.
Neither Bauer nor the league has said what evidence the league presented in determining the suspension. When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred imposed the suspension, Bauer said: “In the strongest possible terms, I deny committing any violation of the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy.”
That policy, negotiated between the league and the players’ union, reads in part: “The confidentiality of player information is essential to the success of this policy.” The league is explicitly forbidden from disclosing details of any violation unless Bauer or his representatives first make “statements challenging the discipline or denying the alleged conduct.”
By the time MLB suspended Bauer, a judge had denied the restraining order, and the Los Angeles County district attorney declined to file criminal charges, saying the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The district attorney’s office said it had investigated Bauer on charges of “assault by means likely to cause great bodily harm, sodomy of a sleeping person and domestic violence.”
Under a policy negotiated between the league and its players’ union, Manfred is authorized to suspend a player even if he has not been charged with a crime.
Bauer could sue in an effort to get the suspension overturned and get the remaining $37.5 million of his contract. However, courts generally are wary of interfering with collectively bargained policies and procedures; Bauer would have to show those policies and procedures were not followed.
Bauer sued six parties for defamation, including the San Diego woman. She sued him back, and Bauer asked that her case be thrown out because the denial of the restraining order necessarily meant a court already had ruled no assault had occurred.
U.S. District Court Judge James Selna denied Bauer’s request in November, ruling that the restraining order hearing determined whether the woman was at risk from future harm from Bauer but “did not necessarily decide that Bauer did not batter or sexually assault [her].”
Bauer and his representatives long have pointed to the judge in the restraining order hearing saying that the woman had been “materially misleading” in her request for the order. Selna noted the “materially misleading” comment referred not to her accounts of the two sexual encounters but to the way she “overstated the extent to which Bauer contacted [her] following” the second encounter.