Everything to know about Trevor Bauer’s MLB suspension reduction

On Thursday night, Major League Baseball announced that Trevor Bauer’s 324-game suspension had been reduced to 194 games by an independent arbitrator. Bauer is eligible to return to baseball immediately, after the arbitrator applied for credit for the time he spent on the restricted list in the second half of 2021. But what went into the decision? And what is Bauer’s future in the 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 has never released the full results of its nine-month investigation. We do know that a woman in San Diego accused him of taking rough sex too far in April and May 2021 and sought a temporary restraining order against him later that summer, triggering an extended investigation by MLB. And we know two other women, both from Ohio, made similar allegations when they spoke to The Washington Post. Whether there are any 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 and maintains that all sexual acts were consensual. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office declined to charge him in February, but under the domestic violence policy jointly approved by MLB and the union in August 2015, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has the authority to discipline players for “just cause”; he does not have to meet the guilt-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt threshold required by law enforcement. On that basis, MLB felt that Bauer deserved to be suspended far longer than any player ever had for a domestic violence offense. With this decision, a third party agreed, albeit to a lesser extent.

Who made the decision to reduce the suspension?

A man named Martin Scheinman, who serves as an independent arbitrator hired by both MLB and the MLB Players’ Association. Briefly over the course of seven months, Scheinman served as head of a three-person panel—also consisting of an MLB representative and a representative from the MLBPA—that reviewed MLB’s results and spoke with witnesses. Most of the interviews took place via video conference. The details were not made public, but a Washington Post story released Thursday said at least two accusers testified from MLB headquarters and more than 20 witnesses were called. The Post story added that the process centered mostly on the three women whose allegations became public. The San Diego woman whose accusation ignited this trial testified three different times, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

What exactly did he decide?

The arbitrator reduced Bauer’s suspension by 130 games, but still ruled that Bauer deserved the longest suspension ever under the domestic violence policy (the previous maximum was 162 games). Bauer served 144 games of his suspension in 2022, which would have left 50 through 2023. But something of a compromise was made: Scheinman essentially gave Bauer some of the credit for spending the second half of the 2021 season — beginning July 2, after the first allegations became public — on paid administrative leave. Bauer will be paid a dummy salary for the first 50 games of the 2023 season, but he will be reinstated immediately.

What does this mean for Bauer’s future in the MLB?

Because of that compromise, Bauer will be eligible to pitch on Opening Day. As of now, he is still under contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the final season of a three-year, $102 million contract he signed before the 2021 season. Regardless of whether the Dodgers play Bauer next year, they will owe him about 22 .5 million of his original $32 million salary — unless he signs with another team, which would be on the hook for $720,000, the major league minimum.

Bauer last played in a major league game on June 28, 2021. In his first 17 starts with the Dodgers, he posted a 2.59 ERA and struck out 137 in 107⅔ innings. In the covid-19 shortened 2020 season, Bauer won the National League Cy Young Award. He has continued to work out at his facility in the Phoenix area, where he regularly posts videos of himself throwing.

What does this mean for the Dodgers?

The first question for the Dodgers is simple: Do they bring Bauer back or let him go? They have given no indication publicly of what they intend to do — the team in a statement Thursday night said it would comment “as soon as practicable” — but a number of players in the Dodgers’ clubhouse have privately advocated for the team to cut the tapes, regardless of the outcome of his appeal. The Dodgers must decide whether to post or cut Bauer by Jan. 6.

As for Bauer’s salary impact, the arbitrator’s decision alleviated some of the pressure on the Dodgers’ competitive balance tax. Currently, according to Baseball Prospectus, Los Angeles’ projected CBT payroll for the 2023 season is $199 million. Bauer’s salary for a full season was supposed to count at $34 million — the average annual value of his deal — against the Dodgers’ CBT number. But by docking Bauer for 50 games with salary, a source said, the arbitrator reduced the Dodgers’ luxury tax burden by nearly $9.5 million. That would keep them under the $233 million threshold, which they would have exceeded at Bauer’s full salary.

If the Dodgers exceed the threshold for the third consecutive season, the base tax rate for each dollar spent from $233 million to $253 million would be taxed at 50%. 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 are extremely unlikely to come close to the upper thresholds and could potentially stay below the lower ones.

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