What a whirlwind week it's been for Trevor Bauer and the Los Angeles Dodgers. We've covered the background of this story, and we also covered how the Dodgers designated Bauer for assignment last week. If you haven't been following this saga, here's a quick primer to get you up to speed.
Trevor Bauer won the 2020 Cy Young Award while pitching for the Cincinnati Reds. His contract was up after that season, which gave him the choice of several lucrative contract offers. He opted to join the Dodgers on a three-year, $102 million deal.
For about half a season, that agreement was working fine. But a pair of sexual assault allegations came to light from two different women, first in April of 2021, and then again in August of 2021. Bauer has maintained his innocence against the allegations and in February of 2022, the L.A. County District Attorney declined to press the charges against him from the first woman. The second woman rescinded the restraining order she had put on Bauer.
Though Bauer as of now has not been arrested or convicted of a crime, Major League Baseball rightfully wanted to investigate any allegations of sexual assault and put him on administrative leave while doing so. In April of 2022, after a 10-month investigation, the league announced it was suspending Bauer for 324 games, the equivalent of two full regular seasons.
Bauer received his full 2021 salary and signing bonus—a total of $38 million—thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players. After appealing the suspension, an arbitrator reduced the penalty to 194 games. Additionally, Bauer won't receive the portion of his salary for the first 50 games of the 2023 season.
And that's where we're currently at. Because Bauer has been suspended since July of 2021, he's already served those 194 games. The Dodgers designated him for assignment while they tried to find a trade partner. They were unsuccessful, so he officially became a free agent Thursday afternoon.
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, one baseball decisionmaker believes the only logical way Bauer could sign with a new club would be to join a "team on another planet." However, there's a bit of a loophole that could make signing Bauer extra intriguing for a team that believes an ace starting pitcher could push them to championship contenders.
The Dodgers are on the hook for Bauer's salary for 112 games, or $22.5 million. That money has to be paid no matter what — again, due to the collective bargaining agreement. So, the Dodgers can either pay $22.5 million to Bauer and he doesn't play all year, or some other team can pay Bauer a portion of the salary to sign him, while the Dodgers cover the rest.
But since Bauer is guaranteed $22.5 million regardless, there's really no incentive for a team to pay him more than the league minimum—which is $720,000—out of their own pockets. They can just let the Dodgers pay the remaining $21.78 million since Bauer is already guaranteed that. Then, in 2024, a team could consider a long-term deal.
There are plenty of teams who won't consider signing Bauer. Sexual assault is a serious offense, and even if no crimes officially come from the allegations, that's enough of a deterrent. However, winning has a way of making some people look the other way, and Bauer is a 31-year-old pitcher just three years removed from a Cy Young award who will be coming off a year and a half of rest.
Under those circumstances, a team will likely take the plunge and offer him a contract. And that means the Dodgers are on the hook for $21.78 million to watch their former star pitcher succeed elsewhere, maybe even against their team.