Trevor Bauer is free to pitch in MLB again, but it won't be with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers announced Friday that the former NL Cy Young Award winner will no longer be part of their organization after his reinstatement from a suspension that was shortened from 324 games to 194 games on Dec. 22.
The official roster move will be Los Angeles designating Bauer for assignment. That means the team has until next Thursday to trade him, at which point he must be placed on unconditional waivers. If no team wants to cover Bauer's 2023 salary, he will become a free agent and be able to sign with any team for the MLB minimum salary of $720,000.
Whether or not Bauer signs elsewhere, the Dodgers will have to cover the remainder of the $22.5 million in salary they still owe the right-hander.
In a statement, the Dodgers affirmed the findings of the MLB reviews that led to Bauer's receiving MLB's longest suspension for a player under its domestic violence and sexual assault policy:
Bauer was initially to be sidelined for the remainder of the three-year, $102.5 million contract he signed with the Dodgers in February 2021, but his reinstatement left the club with a decision to make. The Dodgers waited until the latest possible time to pull the trigger, as the deadline for them to release Bauer or put him on their 40-man roster was Friday afternoon.
The Dodgers are still on the hook for Bauer's $32-million salary in 2023, minus 50 games' worth of pay, as the arbitrator who shortened Bauer's suspension ruled that his paid administrative leave counted toward the suspension.
Bauer's Dodgers tenure ends with him having made only 17 starts in the first of a guaranteed three years. The team will ultimately pay him about $65 million for his efforts, with the suspension costing Bauer $37.5 million.
Trevor Bauer reacts to DFA, says Dodgers leadership wanted him back
Soon after the Dodgers announced they were cutting Bauer loose, the pitcher's representatives released a statement in which he claimed the team's leadership met with him in Arizona on Thursday and told him they wanted him to pitch for them in 2023:
"While we were unable to communicate throughout the administrative leave and arbitration process, my representatives spoke to Dodgers leadership immediately following the arbitration decision.
"Following two weeks of conversations around my return to the organization, I sat down with Dodgers leadership in Arizona yesterday who told me that they wanted me to return and pitch for the team this year.
"While I am disappointed by the organization’s decision today, I appreciate the wealth of support I’ve received from the Dodgers clubhouse. I wish the players all the best and look forward to competing elsewhere."
It is unclear how that squares with the decision the Dodgers made a day later.
Where does Bauer go after Dodgers release?
The Dodgers' decision to drop Bauer shows how far the player's reputation has fallen since he was accused of choking a sexual partner to unconsciousness and assaulting her in June 2021.
Two more accusers have since come forward, while Bauer has claimed that all such interactions were consensual and sued his first accuser for defamation. No criminal charges have been filed against Bauer, who continues to deny all allegations against him, but a civil lawsuit against him from the first accuser has recently been allowed to proceed in court.
The Dodgers' release of Bauer isn't a great indication for his future prospects in MLB. A team would have to be willing to ignore — and hope its fans would ignore — that Bauer received the longest suspension ever under MLB's sexual assault and domestic violence policy.
Putting Bauer on the mound in April would also require a team to believe that he remains in form, despite missing nearly two full years since his most recent MLB appearance. Bauer was performing like one of baseball's top pitchers when he was placed on administrative leave in July 2021, with a 2.24 ERA and 11.8 K/9 in 180.2 innings between his pandemic-shortened 2020 and suspension-shortened 2021 seasons.
There could also be remaining questions about Bauer's pitching ability, considering that his greatest success came with well-evidenced suspicions about the sticky stuff on which MLB cracked down shortly before his suspension.
The primary potential selling point for any teams interested in Bauer is that they wouldn't have to pay him more than the minimum salary, with the Dodgers footing most of the bill.