The Los Angeles Dodgerscut ties Friday with starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, the embattled former Cy Young Award winner who was previously handed an unprecedented suspension following allegations of sexual assault.
Bauer was designated for assignment, which means the Dodgers have until 2 p.m. ET Thursday to find a trade partner. If they can't, Bauer will be placed on unconditional release waivers. If he clears those, which is considered the likely scenario, he will become a free agent the following day.
The Dodgers' decision came two weeks after an independent arbitrator trimmed Bauer's suspension from 324 games to 194, reinstating him immediately but docking his pay for another 50 games to begin the 2023 season. The ruling triggered a 14-day window for the Dodgers to decide whether to add him to their 40-man roster.
They stretched their decision right up until Friday's deadline. The Dodgers are on the hook for the $22.5 million Bauer is owed for the final season of his contract but would save $720,000, the major league minimum, if another team signs him in the open market.
"The Dodgers organization believes that allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence should be thoroughly investigated, with due process given to the accused," the team wrote in a statement Friday. "From the beginning, we have fully cooperated with Major League Baseball's investigation and strictly followed the process stipulated under MLB's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.
"Two extensive reviews of all the available evidence in this case -- one by [MLB] Commissioner [Rob] Manfred and another by a neutral arbitrator -- concluded that Mr. Bauer's actions warranted the longest ever active player suspension in our sport for violations of this policy. Now that this process has been completed, and after careful consideration, we have decided that he will no longer be part of our organization."
The Dodgers had been widely expected to cut ties with Bauer for several months but surprised many in the industry, as well as their own fans, in the length of time it took for them to arrive at the decision. Part of the delay was rooted in initially being caught off guard when the arbitrator announced his decision Dec. 22. The team, sources said, wasn't expecting a decision until mid-January at the earliest.
But the prolonged process only triggered outside speculation that the Dodgers might ultimately reinstate Bauer. Over the past week, members of the front office reached out to players to gauge their interest in Bauer returning, sources said. The team's principal decision makers met with Bauer in Arizona on Thursday in what amounted to their first face-to-face interaction in 18 months.
In a statement, Bauer said the Dodgers at that point expressed a desire for him to pitch for them in 2023 -- a claim disputed by a team source familiar with the meeting.
"While we were unable to communicate throughout the administrative leave and arbitration process, my representatives spoke to Dodgers leadership immediately following the arbitration decision," Bauer wrote. "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."
Bauer joined the Dodgers in February 2021 on a three-year, $102 million contract that included two opt-outs -- but he hasn't pitched since June 28, 2021.
The following day, a then-27-year-old San Diego woman filed a request for a domestic violence restraining order in which she alleged that Bauer assaulted her over the course of two sexual encounters at his home in Pasadena, California, in April and May, prompting a prolonged MLB investigation that left Bauer on administrative leave for the remainder of that season.
Bauer, who has denied wrongdoing at every turn, claimed two legal victories in the aftermath, first when aLos Angeles judgedismissed the woman's request for a permanent restraining order in August 2021 and then when the L.A. District Attorney's Office declined to file criminal charges in February 2022. But two other women made similar allegations to The Washington Post.
Manfred, who has the autonomy to suspend players even if they are not charged with a crime, announced a 324-game suspension for Bauer near the end of April, twice longer than the previous longest penalty under the domestic violence policy.
Martin Scheinman, an independent arbitrator retained by both MLB and the MLB Players' Association, spent parts of the next eight months presiding over Bauer's case, reviewing findings and listening to testimony before determining that the suspension would be reduced to 194 games, 144 of which were served during the grievance process. Scheinman essentially gave Bauer credit for time served while on paid administrative leave throughout the second half of the 2021 season and reinstated him immediately, leaving the rest in the Dodgers' hands.
The Dodgers' initial statement -- "We have just been informed of the arbitrator's ruling and will comment as soon as practical" -- was strikingly noncommittal, consistent with their approach over the previous year and a half.
The team canceled Bauer's scheduled bobblehead night and removed his merchandise from its stores shortly after MLB first placed him on administrative leave. Team president Stan Kasten sent an email to employees in August 2021, while the San Diego woman's DVRO hearing played out, saying he was "deeply troubled by the allegations" against Bauer. Outside of that, though, the Dodgers have hardly commented publicly -- and currently do not plan to in the near future, sources said.
According to the terms of the domestic violence policy, the Dodgers aren't allowed access to the details of MLB's investigation or the reasons behind the arbiter's ruling.
Bauer won the Golden Spikes Award at UCLA in 2011 and was the No. 3 pick in the MLB draft later that summer. He clashed with his Arizona Diamondbacks teammates, prompting a trade after his first full season, and was at the center of two infamous incidents in Cleveland, allegedly cutting his finger with a drone before a 2016 playoff start and hurling a baseball over the center-field fence after being removed from an outing July 28, 2019, three days before being traded again.
He made a case for the Cy Young Award in 2018 then won it while with the Cincinnati Reds during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The Dodgers, fresh off claiming an elusive championship, signed him that offseason, outbidding the New York Mets despite rampant criticism surrounding Bauer's history of bullying on social media. During Bauer's introductory news conference, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman touted the organization's culture and vetting process, adding that he believed Bauer had learned from prior transgressions.
"And you know what, we're all gonna make mistakes," Friedman said then. "What's important for me ... is how we internalize it and what our thoughts are about it going forward. From our standpoint, it was important to have that conversation. And we came away from it feeling good about it. Now, obviously, time will tell. But I feel like he is going to be a tremendous add, not just on the field but in the clubhouse, in the community, and that's obviously why we're sitting here."
Bauer posted a 2.59 ERA in his first 17 starts, pitching mostly like an ace, before the assault allegations prompted his removal from the roster. The team essentially replaced him with Max Scherzer for the rest of the 2021 season, riding another star-laden roster to a 106-win regular season.
The following year, the Dodgers shattered their franchise record by winning 111 games before being eliminated by the San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series. But Bauer's presence loomed in the ensuing offseason, evident in the Dodgers' notable inactivity.
Top-tier free agents continued to come off the board, attaining record contracts in the process, and the Dodgers -- mindful of getting back under the luxury-tax threshold and uncertain about their payroll while Bauer's grievance process played out -- mostly watched them go by.
Now, at least, the team can move forward.
ESPN's Jeff Passan contributed to this report.