Trevor Bauer's initial 324-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy has been reduced to 194 games by an independent arbitrator, who also reinstated him.
Bauer's legal representatives and his employer, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were informed of the arbitrator's decision Thursday afternoon, ending a seven-month grievance process and bringing some clarity to a saga that has been unfolding for the past year and a half.
Bauer has served 144 games of the suspension, but arbitrator Martin Scheinman essentially gave him credit for the time he served on MLB's restricted list in the second half of the 2021 season. Bauer will be docked pay through the first 50 games of the 2023 season but will be officially reinstated Friday.
The Dodgers then will have 14 days, until Jan. 6, to determine whether to release him or add him to their 40-man roster.
The Dodgers weren't expecting a decision until sometime in January and were caught off guard by the ruling, learning the results about a half-hour before MLB released a statement, a source close to the situation told ESPN. The Dodgers countered with only a short statement that read: "We have just been informed of the arbitrator's ruling and will comment as soon as practical."
Bauer's legal team -- consisting of Jon Fetterolf, Shawn Holley and Rachel Luba -- also put out a statement, writing: "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."
Bauer is entering the final year of a three-year, $102 million contract he signed with the Dodgers in February 2021. He will have lost $37.5 million of that contract through his suspension. The Dodgers saved about $28 million of his salary in 2022 and will save about $9.5 million in 2023, a circumstance that could allow them to dip below the luxury-tax threshold. Bauer's remaining $22.5 million salary will be guaranteed even if the Dodgers release him.
Despite the reduction, Bauer's suspension stands as the longest in the seven-plus years of a domestic violence policy that was jointly agreed to by MLB and the MLB Players Association in 2015.
"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," MLB wrote in its statement. "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."
Bauer, the 31-year-old former Cy Young Award winner, has been facing sexual assault allegations ever since a San Diego woman obtained a temporary restraining order against him near the end of June 2021. Bauer disputed her allegations and remains in litigation with the woman, whom ESPN has chosen not to name. Two other women from Ohio made similar assault allegations to The Washington Post, which Bauer and his legal team have also disputed.
The L.A. District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute Bauer in February, but MLB handed him a 324-game suspension on April 29, twice longer than the previous longest suspension under its policy. Bauer then became the first player to appeal, triggering a prolonged process in which a three-person panel -- consisting of one rep from MLB, another from the MLBPA and Scheinman, appointed by both parties -- reviews findings and interviews witnesses to determine whether to uphold, reduce or throw out a suspension.
The grievance hearing began May 23, playing out in spurts until the end of December. The San Diego woman testified three times, a source with knowledge of the situation said. One of the Ohio women also testified, but the other backed out, according to the Post.
Bauer hasn't pitched since June 28, 2021. The following day, the then-27-year-old San Diego woman filed a request for a domestic violence restraining order in which she alleged that Bauer assaulted her over the course of two sexual encounters at his Pasadena, California, home in April and May of that year. The woman alleged that he choked her unconscious on multiple occasions, repeatedly scratched and punched her throughout her body, sodomized her without consent and left her with injuries that warranted a trip to the emergency room after rough sex.
Bauer and his attorneys, Fetterolf and Luba, denied the allegations, calling them "fraudulent" and "baseless" in an initial statement.
MLB first placed Bauer on administrative leave July 2, 2021, triggering an investigation. After that, the two women from Ohio made similar allegations to the Post. In August 2021, one of the women told the Post she sought a DVRO against Bauer in June 2020 and accused him of choking and striking her without consent during sex and sending threatening messages. That woman, the Post reported, dismissed her order six weeks later after Bauer's attorneys threatened legal action. The second woman alleged to the Post that Bauer choked her unconscious without consent on multiple occasions dating back to 2013.
MLB said it conducted "an extensive investigation" into Bauer's off-field conduct but did not disclose specifics of its findings, nor did it reveal how many women made assault allegations against him. Bauer, meanwhile, has denied wrongdoing, posting long threads through his Twitter account -- some of them containing screenshots of private text messages -- in an effort to show consent after each of the three women's accusations. After the L.A. County District Attorney's Office declined to file criminal charges, Bauer released a seven-minute video on YouTube in which he categorically denied the San Diego woman's version of events.
The DA's office, ruling six months after an L.A. judge denied the San Diego woman a permanent restraining order, rejected charges of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, sodomy of an unconscious person and domestic violence. But MLB, which, according to sources, heard similar allegations from multiple women, suspended Bauer three months later.
Prior to Bauer, 15 players had been suspended under the domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy that was introduced in August 2015. The policy grants MLB commissioner Rob Manfred the autonomy to suspend players even if they are not charged with a crime and does not require him to meet the proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt threshold required by the country's law enforcement. Those suspensions -- not counting that of former reliever Felipe Vazquez, who is serving a jail sentence for sexual assault of a minor -- ranged from 15 to 162 games and were the result of negotiated settlements in which players waived their right to appeal. Bauer was the first of those players with more than one publicly known accuser.
The Dodgers canceled Bauer's scheduled bobblehead night and removed his merchandise from their stores shortly after MLB first placed him on administrative leave in the summer of 2021, but they have barely commented on his situation publicly. Uncertainty over the arbitrator's decision was seen as a primary reason the Dodgers, hesitant to exceed the luxury-tax threshold for a third consecutive year, mostly stayed away from star free agents this offseason.
In recent months, Bauer has continued to populate his YouTube channel with videos of him taking part in lively bullpen sessions and providing pitching tips. He put out a tweet moments after the arbitrator's ruling became public Thursday:
The 2023 season Vlog is going to be 🔥🔥! Can't wait to see y'all out at a stadium soon!— Trevor Bauer (トレバー・バウアー) (@BauerOutage) December 23, 2022
Bauer has filed defamation lawsuits against two media outlets, Deadspin and The Athletic. He also filed suit against the San Diego woman, who countersued in August. On Nov. 23, U.S. District Court Judge James Selna allowed the San Diego woman to proceed with her lawsuit and dismissed Bauer's defamation suit against one of her former attorneys. In his ruling, Selna wrote that the initial denial of the restraining order by L.A. Superior Court Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman did not determine whether Bauer had committed an act of abuse and that neither party had asked her to make such a determination.
"The state court proceedings did not necessarily decide that Bauer did not batter or sexually assault [the woman]," Selna added.
Bauer won the Golden Spikes Award at UCLA in 2011 and was the No. 3 pick in the MLB draft that year. He clashed with teammates in Arizona, prompting a trade after his first full season, and had two notable incidents in Cleveland, allegedly cutting his finger with a drone before a 2016 playoff start and hurling a baseball over the center-field fence after being removed from an outing on July 28, 2019, three days before being traded again.
He has clashed with Manfred over the commissioner's handling of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal and efforts to market the game to a younger audience, among other topics. Bauer has built a reputation as a difficult teammate, but he is also considered one of the most forward-thinking, analytically minded pitchers in the sport.
Bauer made a case for a Cy Young Award in 2018 then won it during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season while with the Cincinnati Reds. The Dodgers signed him that offseason, outbidding the New York Mets despite rampant criticism surrounding Bauer's history of bullying on social media.
Bauer pitched like an ace for Los Angeles in the first half of the 2021 season, posting a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts. He hasn't pitched since. And now the question is whether he will ever pitch in the majors again.