An arbitrator reduced pitcher Trevor Bauer’s record suspension from 324 games to 194 games on Thursday, clearing Bauer to return to Major League Baseball after the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher missed all of 2022 serving a ban for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.
Bauer’s appeal of the suspension was partially successful, as he’ll be immediately eligible to play and will retain most of his $35.3 million salary in 2023.
But the financial and professional costs remain significant and Bauer’s suspension remains the longest in the policy’s history.
MLB announced that the arbitrator’s decision reinstates Bauer immediately, though he will be docked pay for the first 50 games of 2023, a loss of $10.9 million that essentially renders his time spent on administrative leave as unpaid time served.
Bauer’s total lost salary between his 144-game suspension in 2022 and his 50 games of docked pay in ’23: $37.5 million.
It is a better outcome for the pitcher than losing two full years of salary. But just because Bauer will get paid doesn’t mean he will play.
The Dodgers, per Major League Baseball, will have 14 days to decide whether Bauer will be reinstated from the restricted list. The club could simply release him, though they’d still owe him more than $22 million in 2023.
That 14-day period will conclude Jan. 5.
“We have just been informed of the arbitrator’s ruling and will comment as soon as practical,” the Dodgers said in a statement Thursday night.
Bauer, who turns 32 next month, was under investigation by the Pasadena Police Department after an acquaintance accused him of sexual assault in June 2021; Bauer and his legal team contended that their two encounters were “wholly consensual.”
Bauer was placed on administrative leave by MLB on July 2, 2021. The Pasadena Police investigation concluded in late August 2021 and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office opted not to press charges in February, after a five-month review of evidence.
Bauer was not charged after the district attorney’s office determined it could not “prove the relevant charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Those charges were assault by means likely to cause great bodily harm, sodomy of a sleeping person and domestic violence.”
But a key element of MLB’s domestic violence policy, enacted in August 2015, is the league retaining its right to suspend players in the absence of criminal charges. Just one of the 15 suspensions levied by MLB has resulted in a conviction in a court of law and Bauer’s is the only suspension that proceeded to appeal, with the majority of suspension lengths agreed upon by the MLBPA and the league.
After Bauer’s California accuser came forward, the Washington Post reported in August 2021 that an Ohio woman sought a protective order against Bauer in June 2020, citing injuries she said she suffered when Bauer punched and choked her during a nonconsensual sexual encounter in 2017. Bauer pitched for Cleveland at the time and was a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 2020.
MLB confirmed that it would weigh evidence and witness testimony from both alleged incidents in determining its suspension. Bauer’s suspension is the longest in the policy’s history; reliever Sam Dyson’s 162-game ban in March 2021 was previously the longest.
“While we believe a longer suspension was warranted, MLB will abide by the neutral arbitrator’s decision, which upholds baseball’s longest-ever active player suspension for sexual assault or domestic violence,” the league said in a statement Thursday. “We understand this process was difficult for the witnesses involved and we thank them for their participation. Due to the collectively bargained confidentiality provisions of the joint program, we are unable to provide further details at this time.”
The Dodgers drew criticism when they signed Bauer to a three-year, $102 million contract in February 2021, given Bauer’s history of behavior on social media. In January 2019, his harassing, via Twitter, of a college student resulted in him stating he’d “wield my public platform more responsibly in the future.”