Major League Baseball has suspended Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer for 324 games, the equivalent of two full seasons, after a sexual assault investigation by the league.
The 31-year-old right-hander, who won the 2020 National League Cy Young Award, has been on MLB’s restricted list since July 2021 after the allegations first surfaced. He has been paid while on the sidelines, but the suspension will cost him the rest of his Dodgers’ contract, which runs through 2023 and has roughly $59 million remaining, including $32 million next year.
Bauer denied the allegations after news of the suspension surfaced.
“In the strongest possible terms, I deny committing any violation of the league’s domestic violence & sexual assault policy,” Bauer wrote on Twitter. “I am appealing this action and expect to prevail. As we have throughout this process, my representatives & I respect the confidentiality of the proceedings.”
In February, the Los Angeles County District Attorney announced it would not file any criminal charges against Bauer related to the incidents, citing a lack of evidence. The following month Bauer filed defamation lawsuits against Deadspin, The Athletic and Molly Knight, a former reporter for The Athletic, for their reporting on the allegations.
Earlier this week, Bauer filed a defamation suit against the woman who accused him.
Bauer’s rights to contest the suspension are governed by the collective bargaining agreement, and specifically its Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy as detailed in Attachment 52 of the CBA. This policy applies to Bauer because, as a member of the MLBPA, labor law instructs that his union negotiates workplace and employment policies with MLB.
The fact that Bauer has not been convicted of a crime, and the fact that he is adamant about his innocence—going so far as to sue his accuser and multiple media companies—do not limit MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s authority.
The policy empowers Manfred to decide on whether a player engaged in domestic violence or related wrongdoing and, if so, to mete out the appropriate penalty.
Bauer can appeal and have an arbitration panel review the penalty. The panel would consist of three persons, one picked by the league, one picked by the MLBPA and one picked jointly by the league and union. They would focus on two considerations. First, whether Manfred possessed “just cause” in finding Bauer at fault and, second, whether the suspension’s length is appropriate or excessive.
The panel would draw from available evidence and testimony, as well as other evidentiary materials provided by Bauer and the league. Arbitration is not as formal as a court proceeding, though it features many of the same core qualities to ensure fairness and justice.
In terms of the penalty, the panel could consider that other players suspended under this policy have not received anywhere near 324 games. The longest had been one season (162 games) for pitcher Sam Dyson.
Bauer could later sue over the arbitrator’s decision, but it would face long odds: Federal judges are required by law to give arbitration awards high deference.
Bauer, who has not pitched since last June 28, is the 16th player suspended since MLB implemented its domestic abuse policy in 2015. The league issued a short statement on Friday: “In accordance with the terms of the Policy, the Commissioner’s Office will not issue any further statements at this point in time.”
Bauer joined Los Angeles ahead of the 2021 season under an unusual contract by baseball’s standards. The three-year, $102 million deal included a $10 million signing bonus paid in two parts, and his remaining $28 million 2021 salary, paid in a lump-sum last Nov. 1. He had the option to exit the deal after 2021, which would have triggered a $2 million buyout, with the Dodgers deferring $20 million of his 2021 salary without interest to be paid over 10 years starting in 2031. With the suspension, Bauer’s salary will no longer count against the Dodgers’ luxury tax bill.
As of Thursday, the Dodgers were at $290 million in salary, well above the Phase 1 MLB luxury-tax threshold of $230 million. At that level, they would have had to pay a 90% tax based on their prior years over the threshold. They’d already paid Bauer $6.8 million of his $34 million salary for luxury-tax purposes this season, when he was on administrative leave. The remaining $27.2 million now comes off the books, lowering LA’s total salary for tax threshold purposes to about $262.8 million this season. Next year, without Bauer’s entire $34 million salary, the Dodgers are already liable for $199 million, down from $233 million.
Prior to the sexual assault allegations, Bauer had built a large following among younger baseball fans with his YouTube videos and Bauer Outage merchandise. He currently has more than 400,000 subscribers on the platform, and he was the first MLB player brand ambassador for Lids in the retailer’s 25-year history. Bauer ranked second in Sportico’s 2021 look at baseball’s highest-paid players, on and off the field.