How Will the MLB Discipline Trevor Bauer?

Photo via CNBC

Over the last year, Trevor Bauer’s future as an MLB pitcher, let alone as a free man, was in purgatory. There were rumors the former Cy Young award winner might never pitch again. In August, ESPN reported sources close to them expected the league to levy a significant suspension against Bauer, and front-office officials questioned whether any team in the MLB would be willing to roster him after multiple women accused him of abuse.[1] Things looked very bleak for Bauer at that time, but after a recent statement from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the narrative has changed.

On February 8, 2022, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office announced it had concluded its investigation into Trevor Bauer and determined it would not pursue criminal charges against him for sexual assault allegations. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office stated “After a thorough review of all the available evidence, including the civil restraining order proceedings, witness statements and the physical evidence, the People are unable to prove the relevant charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”[2] While the criminal charges have been dropped, Major League Baseball’s (MLB’s) investigation into the accusations remains ongoing.

When it comes to the MLB, Bauer might be subject to discipline. Under MLB’s previous domestic violence and sexual assault policy, the Commissioner is empowered to suspend a player judged to have violated the policy even if the player has not been charged or convicted. [3] An example of this is the arrest of Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias for suspicion of misdemeanor domestic battery. Urias was not charged, but Commissioner Manfred still suspended him 20 games.[4] This is league precedent showing it is likely Bauer will face discipline of some sort.

MLB received significant criticism because Bauer was placed on administrative leave and paid in full throughout the entire investigation. Bauer was paid a lump sum of $20 million on November 1, 2020, as his contract stipulated.[5] In the heat of this investigation, people were in shock the Dodgers were still paying Bauer, but this ended up being the proper course of action by the Dodgers and the MLB. If the league had put him on non-paid leave, and criminal charges failed to materialize, Bauer could potentially have a law suit against the league for wrongfully suspending him without pay. The MLB was right to allow the legal system to do its job before intervening.

Now it is the MLB’s turn to make a decision, and it will likely look to similar cases. The timing of this is extremely difficult given the MLB is currently in a major labor dispute. Analyzing this under the previous domestic violence and sexual abuse policy, here is notable precedent on cases similar to Bauer’s: Of the 13 previously suspended players, 10 were not publicly charged. The longest previous penalty under the policy was suspension for the full 2021 season (162 games). There has never been discipline handed out against a player who faced sexual assault allegations from multiple women; and a domestic violence case has never been appealed before.[6]

One thing is for sure, Bauer’s brand will never be the same. His marketability to teams and sponsors is all but gone. While Bauer’s future in the MLB  is uncertain, it is clear he will face discipline of some sort. He will also get paid by the Dodgers this upcoming season. His contract contains a player option for 2023 where if he opts out, the Dodgers owe him a $15 million buyout.[7] Ultimately, there will be no clarity to the situation until the league’s labor dispute comes to an end and there is a domestic abuse and sexual assault policy set in place. Once there is, the ramifications for Bauer’s future in the MLB will be determined.


[1] https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/32119416/will-trevor-bauer-ever-pitch-again-next-los-angeles-dodgers-mlb

[2] https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/trevor-bauer-wont-face-criminal-charges-after-assault-allegations-per-report-mlb-investigation-continues/

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/los-angeles-dodgers/trevor-bauer-8645/

[6] https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/32119416/will-trevor-bauer-ever-pitch-again-next-los-angeles-dodgers-mlb

[7] https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/los-angeles-dodgers/trevor-bauer-8645/

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Former college baseball player, focusing my legal studies on the intersection of sport, law, and business.

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