As of Friday morning, it is unclear which path the Dodgers will choose.
Bauer, who will be 32 this month, won the 2020 National League Cy Young Award and vaulted himself into a massive three-year deal with the Dodgers ahead of the 2021 season. But in June of 2021, a woman filed a request for a restraining order against him in Los Angeles County Court. She alleged Bauer assaulted her during two consensual sexual encounters that turned violent, resulting in head and facial trauma, and that he strangled her to the point that she lost consciousness. Bauer denied assaulting her. Major League Baseball put Bauer on administrative leave and conducted an investigation.
Later that year, The Post reported Bauer was also the subject of a temporary order of protection in Ohio after a woman alleged he had made repeated threats against her. In April of 2022, the Post reported another woman’s allegations of sexual violence against Bauer, with whom she had a relationship in 2013. Bauer denied their claims, too.
When Major League Baseball concluded its investigation in April of 2022, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Bauer would be suspended for 324 games or two full regular seasons. Bauer appealed. In late December, an independent arbitrator reduced Bauer’s suspension to 194 games. Bauer is now eligible to pitch on Opening Day.
If the Dodgers decide to cut Bauer, they will owe him the $22 million his contract promises him in 2023, minus 50 games of pay docked as part of the arbiter’s decision to reduce the length of his suspension. If they decide to keep him, they will owe him the same amount of money and add him to a rotation that needs more depth — particularly if Bauer looks anything like the late-blooming ace they signed him to be.
A third option exists: The Dodgers could trade Bauer, whose 2022 salary is in line with what pitchers of his caliber are earning these days — particularly if the Dodgers were willing to pay part of that salary down as part of a trade. But even if Bauer were not mired in accusations of sexual violencehe has not pitched since midway through the 2021 season — and not since the league staged a very public crackdown on the use of illegal “sticky stuff,” which Bauer himself has been suspected of using to improve his performance. He is, in other words, hardly a lock to return to form if he returns to the mound.
Bauer also is mired in those accusations, which seem likely to limit the number of potential suitors, even if MLB front offices have a history of offering second chances to players accused under the domestic violence and sexual abuse policy. Those potential suitors won’t have access to any information unearthed by MLB’s investigation, other than what has been reported publicly — the specifics of which have not been confirmed by MLB as part of that confidentiality agreement — and to whatever teams unearthed themselves.
Bauer’s next employer, should he find one, will know that Commissioner Rob Manfred looked at the results of that investigation and decided to suspend Bauer for two full seasons. And it will know that an independent arbiter looked at reams of evidence and reduced the suspension to 194 games (effectively, time served) — still by far the longest penalty ever enforced for sexual violence. They will also know that the District Attorney of Los Angeles County, after reviewing the details of one of those accusations, declined to charge Bauer, and that a judge denied the woman’s request for a restraining order.
The Dodgers have been answering for Bauer since the moment they signed him to a three-year deal worth $102 million before the 2021 season. He was known then as an online bully and a polarizing clubhouse presence, outspoken about pitchers’ use of sticky stuff (including his own) to improve their performance and unafraid of calling out his colleagues when they bristled back. Now, he is known for something else altogether. And the Dodgers must decide just how much they are willing to forgive.