NEW YORK — Trevor Bauer was reinstated Thursday by Major League Baseball's independent arbitrator, allowing the pitcher to resume his career at the start of the 2023 season.
The 31-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers star was given an unprecedented two-season suspension without pay by baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on April 29 for violating the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy after a San Diego woman said Bauer beat and sexually abused her last year, an accusation the pitcher denied.
The players’ association filed a grievance on behalf of the former Cy Young Award winner, and a three-person panel headed by independent arbitrator Martin Scheinman started hearing the case on May 23.
Scheinman upheld a 194-game suspension rather than Manfred's intended 324-game penalty but reinstated Bauer immediately, assigning 50 games to cover part of the lengthy time Bauer was put on administrative leave while MLB investigated during the 2021 season and early this year.
“Can’t wait to see y’all out at a stadium soon!” Bauer wrote on Twitter.
Bauer will lose more than $37 million in salary for the final 144 games of last season and for the first 50 games of next season, through May 23. The lost salary next year is effectively a clawback from part of his administrative leave, when he continued to receive pay.
MLB said Scheinman affirmed that Bauer violated the domestic violence policy.
“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 said in a statement. “We understand this process was difficult for the witnesses involved and we thank them for their participation.”
While Scheinman issued his award to the parties, a full written decision is not expected until later. The panel included MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem and union assistant general counsel Bob Lenaghan.
“While we are pleased that Mr. Bauer has been reinstated immediately, we disagree that any discipline should have been imposed,” Bauer's representatives, Jon Fetterolf, Shawn Holley and Rachel Luba, said in a statement. “That said, Mr. Bauer looks forward to his return to the field, where his goal remains to help his team win a World Series.”
The players’ association declined comment on Scheinman’s decision.
Bauer was never charged with a crime. His accuser sought but was denied a restraining order against him, and Los Angeles prosecutors said in February there was insufficient evidence to prove the woman’s accusations beyond a reasonable doubt.
Bauer, who hasn’t played since the allegations surfaced and MLB began investigating, repeatedly has said that everything that happened between him and the woman was consensual.
An email sent after business hours Thursday seeking comment from the woman’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, wasn’t immediately returned.
Bauer sued his accuser in federal court, a move that came less than three months after prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges against the pitcher. Bauer named the woman and one of her attorneys, Niranjan Fred Thiagarajah, as defendants in the lawsuit. The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault.
The lawsuit said that “the damage to Mr. Bauer has been extreme” after the woman alleged that he had choked her into unconsciousness, punched her repeatedly and had anal sex with her without her consent during two sexual encounters last year.
The pitcher has said the two engaged in rough sex at his Pasadena home at her suggestion and followed guidelines they agreed to in advance.
Another woman, from Columbus, Ohio, told The Washington Post that Bauer repeatedly choked her without her consent and sexually assaulted her over the course of a years-long relationship. Bauer, in a statement through his representatives, said their relationship was “casual and wholly consensual.”
The suspension will cost Bauer $37,594,233 from his $102 million, three-year contract: $28,131,868 of his $32 million salary in 2022 and $9,462,365 of his $32 million salary in 2023.
Under Major League Rule 2, Bauer will not count against the Dodgers’ player limits for 14 days, giving the team until Jan. 6 to decide whether to cut ties. If the Dodgers jettison Bauer, they would remain responsible for the roughly $22.6 million he is owed next season and he would be free to sign with any club.
“We have just been informed of the arbitrator’s ruling and will comment as soon as practical,” the Dodgers said in a statement.
The money not paid to Bauer will be reflected on the Dodgers' luxury tax payroll, cutting the amount of tax they must pay this year and are projected to pay in 2023.
After winning his first Cy Young with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020, Bauer agreed to join his hometown Dodgers. He did not pitch after June 29 in 2021 and finished with an 8-2 record and a 2.59 ERA in 17 appearances.
Bauer was placed on administrative leave on July 2, 2021, under the domestic violence policy, a leave extended 13 times.
Among 15 players previously disciplined under the policy, the longest suspension was a full season and postseason for free agent pitcher Sam Dyson in 2021. None of the players previously disciplined under the policy appear to have challenged the penalty before an arbitrator.
Bauer's suspension was the longest of any MLB player since pitcher Jenrry Mejia was given a lifetime ban in 2016 for a third violation of the drug agreement. Mejia was reinstated for 2019 and returned in the minor leagues.