LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said the organization’s key decision-makers were “unanimous” in their decision to release embattled starting pitcher Trevor Bauer and expressed their confidence that the team made “the right decision met”.
Kasten, Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, General Manager Brandon Gomes and Executive Vice President Lon Rosen met with a small group of local reporters Wednesday, nearly three weeks after Bauer’s release, to answer partially open-ended questions on an organization issue yet to speak publicly.
However, their responses were particularly guarded, due in part to the confidentiality clauses in the collective agreement and the sensitivity surrounding talking about a current free agent. The abrupt end of Bauer’s time with the Dodgers left outsiders wondering if, given the time it took to make a decision and a notable claim from Bauer himself, the team considered bringing him back, if at all.
After the Dodgers drafted him on Jan. 6, Bauer wrote as part of his statement that the executives he spoke to in Arizona the day before “wanted me to come back this year and apply for the team.”
“I will not disagree or agree with anything that should be a private conversation,” Kasten said when first asked about Bauer’s allegation. “I’m just saying that within a very short time we came back and made our decision. I think that speaks for itself.”
Kasten declined to go into details of the meeting, although other team sources have previously disputed Bauer’s account.
“I don’t want to talk about what happened, what was discussed, what wasn’t discussed or who was there,” said Kasten. “But we heard from him. I thought it would be the right thing. I’m glad we did, along with everything else we did to make the best decision we could. I stand by our decision. I’m very comfortable with it.”
The Dodgers signed Bauer to a three-year, $102 million deal in February 2021, despite heavy criticism of his history of bullying on social media. Later that summer, a San Diego woman accused Bauer of taking rough sex too far while obtaining a restraining order against him, prompting Major League Baseball to place him on administrative leave and open an investigation.
Bauer, who has denied wrongdoing at every turn, claimed two legal victories in the aftermath, first when an LA judge dismissed the woman’s request for a permanent restraining order in August 2021, and then when LA prosecutors in February declined a criminal complaint in 2022. But two other women made similar allegations to the Washington Post. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who doesn’t need a criminal conviction to fine players, followed an unprecedented 324-game suspension against Bauer in late April.
Bauer, 32, appealed the decision, triggering an arbitration process that played out in small increments over a period of eight months. On December 22, independent referee Martin Scheinman reduced Bauer’s suspension to 194 games and immediately reinstated him while docking his pay for the remaining 50 games at the start of the 2023 regular season. At that point, the Dodgers had 14 days to release or list him. And many across the industry were surprised they didn’t make their decision until Day 14, with some wondering if the Dodgers actually considered bringing him back.
Kasten did not disclose how much that possibility was being considered, but attributed the delay, at least in part, to timing, noting that the ruling came the day before MLB headquarters and the Dodgers’ businesses were closed for the holiday .
“Until that day, we didn’t know if it was going to be all or nothing or anything in between,” Kasten said of the award.
Friedman, Kasten added, was soon leaving the country on vacation and finally returned only three days before the deadline.
“There weren’t any games we played,” Kasten said. “We had the time. Checking all of our bases, getting all the information you could get to make a decision about what we did, which included hearing from Trevor because we hadn’t spoken to him since the beginning. And because we had we took the time to gather as much information as possible to make sure we made the right decision. We did. We feel we made the right decision. And we will continue.
The Dodgers, Kasten said, spoke to “a representative sample” of players, coaches, staff and fans to gauge their thoughts on Bauer’s potential return to the team. However, the Dodgers were not privy to the findings of the MLB investigation or the details of the subsequent arbitration, as detailed in a domestic violence policy jointly agreed by MLB and the MLB Players’ Association.
The details surrounding the Dodgers’ meeting with Bauer and the motivation behind it remain something of a mystery.
“Until we made that decision, I guess anything was possible,” Kasten said, alluding to the possibility of Bauer returning to the Dodgers. “But I think we all had a strong feeling throughout the process about how to go about it the right way. And the information we learned in those 14 days was valuable in finalizing our decision.”
Kasten added, “You know, that wasn’t unanimous in the real world — among fans, among the media or whatever. But the decision that we made was unanimous among the people tasked with making that decision.”
With the release of Bauer, who remains a free agent, the Dodgers will be responsible for approximately $22.5 million of his $32 million 2023 salary. Friedman disputed the industry’s widespread belief that uncertainty about the umpire’s decision, particularly related to how much the Dodgers would owe Bauer, directly led to them mostly bypassing a star-studded free-agent class. But it played a role, he conceded. The Dodgers initially hoped to get below the luxury tax threshold to reset the penalties, but the ruling put them anywhere near $15 million above the first threshold of $233 million, a source said.
“There was a big unknown in terms of how it was going to play out and whether it would be fully scaled back, fully sustained, somewhere in the middle that we obviously had no idea about,” Friedman said. “But we split that up, and it didn’t affect what we did or tried.”
The decision to sign Bauer was originally based on efficiency – the ability to sign a reigning Cy Young Award winner at the peak of his career on a short-term contract. But it didn’t come without setbacks. Bauer’s introductory press conference was peppered with questions about acquiring a player with a reputation for being a difficult teammate. Friedman responded by praising the organization’s culture and vetting process, adding that he believes Bauer learned from past transgressions.
When asked if what ultimately transpired with Bauer caused him to question the team’s background work on players, Friedman spoke mostly in general terms, saying, “We’re constantly trying to improve our processes and things that we do to improve. And if a year from now we’re not any better than we are today, we’re not doing our job.”
At this point, with two weeks left until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the Dodgers appear to have mostly moved on.
“Obviously a lot of it was done between the Players Association and Major League Baseball and then an independent umpire,” Friedman said when asked what led to the severing of ties with Bauer. “Most of what we know comes from the fact that the Commissioner’s office and the independent arbitrator reviewed all aspects of the case and found it to be in violation of this policy and serving the longest suspension ever under this policy. And while we were going through that, that was enough for us. We feel good about our process and what has gotten us to where we are now and look forward to and look forward to coming to Camelback Ranch.”