Major League Baseball announced Thursday night that Trevor Bauer’s 324-game suspension was reduced to 194 games by an independent referee. Bauer is eligible to return to baseball immediately after the umpire credits the time he was on the suspended list in the second half of 2021. But what went into the decision? And what does Bauer’s future hold in MLB? We break down the biggest questions surrounding the pitcher’s potential return.
Why was Bauer suspended last year?
Bauer was suspended for sexual misconduct, but the league never released the full results of its nine-month investigation. We know a San Diego woman accused him of taking rough sex too far in April and May 2021 and later in the summer filed for a restraining order against him, sparking a lengthy investigation by MLB. And we know that two other women, both from Ohio, made similar allegations when speaking to the Washington Post. Whether there are other alleged victims or other women the League spoke to is not public due to the confidentiality provisions of the Domestic Violence Policy.
Bauer has vigorously denied any wrongdoing, claiming that all sexual activity was consensual. The Los Angeles Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute him in February, but under the domestic violence policy agreed by MLB and the union in August 2015, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to punish players for “just causes”; He need not meet the threshold of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt required by law enforcement. Because of this, MLB felt that Bauer deserved to be suspended for a domestic violence violation far longer than any other player ever had. A third party agreed with this judgment, albeit to a lesser extent.
Who made the decision to reduce the suspension?
A man named Martin Scheinman who serves as an independent referee hired by both MLB and the MLB Players’ Association. In brief spurts over the course of seven months, Scheinman served as head of a three-person panel — also consisting of an MLB representative and an MLBPA representative — that reviewed the MLB’s findings and spoke to witnesses. Most of the interviews took place via video conference. Details were not released, but a Washington Post story published Thursday said at least two accusers from MLB headquarters testified and more than 20 witnesses were called. The Post story added that the trial revolved around the three women whose allegations became public. The San Diego woman whose allegation sparked this trial testified three times, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
What exactly did he decide?
The referee reduced Bauer’s suspension by 130 games, but still ruled that Bauer deserved the longest suspension ever under domestic violence policy (the previous high was 162 games). Bauer served 144 games of his suspension in 2022, with 50 remaining for 2023. But a compromise was struck: Scheinman essentially gave Bauer some credit for spending the second half of the 2021 season — beginning July 2, after allegations first became public — on paid administrative leave. Bauer will be conceded for the first 50 games of the 2023 season but reinstated immediately.
What does this mean for Bauer’s future in MLB?
Because of this compromise, Bauer is entitled to pitch on opening day. Effective immediately, he remains with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the final season of a three-year, $102 million contract he signed ahead of the 2021 season. Regardless of whether the Dodgers field Bauer next year, they’ll owe him about $22.5 million of his original $32 million salary — unless he signs with another team that’s $720,000 , the major league minimum salary, would be on the hook.
Bauer last played in a major league game on June 28, 2021. In his first 17 starts with the Dodgers, he had a 2.59 ERA and batted 137 in 107⅔ innings. In the 2020 season shortened by COVID-19, Bauer won the National League Cy Young Award. He has continued his training at his Phoenix-area facility, where he regularly posts videos of him throwing.
What does this mean for the Dodgers?
The first question for the Dodgers is simple: will they bring Bauer back or release him? They have not made any public statements about what they intend to do – the team said in a statement Thursday night it would comment “as soon as possible” – but a number of players at the Dodgers’ clubhouse have privately lobbied that the team does disconnect, regardless of the outcome of its appeal. The Dodgers have until January 6 to decide whether to add or drop pawns.
In terms of the impact on Bauer’s salary, the arbitrator’s decision eased some of the pressure on the Dodgers’ tax balance sheet. According to Baseball Prospectus, Los Angeles’ estimated CBT salary total for the 2023 season is currently $199 million. Bauer’s salary for a full season should count toward the Dodgers’ CBT number at $34 million — the average annual value of his deal. But by docking Bauer for 50 paid games, a source said, the arbiter reduced the Dodgers’ luxury tax burden by nearly $9.5 million. That would keep them below the $233 million threshold they would have surpassed if Bauer was on full pay.
If the Dodgers exceed the threshold for the third straight season, the base tax rate would be taxed at 50% for every $233 million to $253 million spent. Any money between $253 million and $273 million would be subject to a 62% penalty. From $273 million to $293 million, it would be 95%, and anything above $293 million would be 110%, although the Dodgers most likely won’t get anywhere near the upper thresholds and could possibly stay below the lowest.