Trevor Bauer, the 2020 National League Cy Young award winner, became a free agent on Thursday, but his market will be a lot more hostile than it was two winters ago when he signed a three-year, $102-million deal with the Dodgers after turning down a lucrative offer from the New York Mets.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were unable to trade Bauer by Thursday, the end of a seven-day window in which they had to deal him, and the embattled pitcher was given his unconditional release. Bauer, 32, is eligible to return this season after his 324-game suspension for a violation of Major League Baseball’s sexual assault and domestic violence policy was reduced to 194 games by an arbitrator in December.
The Dodgers had 14 days from that point to reinstate or release Bauer, and they went all the way up to last Friday’s end-of-business-day deadline to announce in a one-paragraph press release that Bauer “will no longer be part of our organization.” The odds of a deal in the week the Dodgers had to trade him were remote considering any team interested in Bauer could sign him for the major league minimum salary of $720,000 and not give up any prospects. Bauer is now free to pursue a job with any team, but is there a team willing to employ him?
Our sources reached out to 16 front-office executives, most of them team presidents and general managers, to see whether they had any interest in signing Bauer, who went 8-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts with the Dodgers in 2021 but hasn’t pitched in a professional game in 19 months. Of the 11 who responded, seven were a hard “no,” one said, “I doubt it,” one said, “We are probably out,” and two declined to comment altogether, with one of those executives saying, “I’m not touching that topic.”
Is this the end of Trevor Bauer?
These responses don’t necessarily mean MLB has seen the last of Bauer, despite the sexual misconduct allegations. Bauer has an 83-69 career record and 3.79 ERA in 10 big league seasons and won his Cy Young Award with the Cincinnati Reds in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. “He’s so affordable, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody does sign him and weathers the storm for spring training and the first two weeks of the season and then hopes it kind of dies down,” said one GM who was granted anonymity to speak freely about the situation. “Maybe it’s not spring training [that Bauer signs], maybe it’s May 1 or June 1, maybe it’s more strategically timed for a team to get out of spring training and avoid the early noise, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t play again.”
Bauer’s sexual misconduct case is also the only one with more than one publicly known accuser; two Ohio women made similar allegations to the Washington Post, which the league considered in determining Bauer’s suspension. Bauer maintains the sex was rough but consensual. He has not been charged with a crime but still received the longest suspension ever levied under baseball’s domestic violence policy. With the market being hostile, it remains to be seen if Bauer will find a team willing to employ him. However, his affordable contract could make him an attractive option for teams looking to add depth to their roster.