A small group of the Dodgers front office met with a small group of reporters on Wednesday to answer some questions about Trevor Bauer, 26 days after the team decided to cut ties with the pitcher whose 194-game suspension is the longest penalty in the history of MLB’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy.
Present at the Wednesday meeting from the Dodgers were president and CEO Stan Kasten, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, general manager Brandon Gomes, and executive VP and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen. That came from Alden González at ESPN, who described the team’s answers thusly: “Their answers, however, were particularly guarded, due in part to the confidentiality provisions in the collective bargaining agreement and the sensitivities around talking about a current free agent.”
This characterization was shared by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register as well:
“Answering questions on the topic from a small group of reporters for the first time Wednesday, team president Stan Kasten and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman were cautious and circumspect, unable to respond directly because of the confidential nature of MLB’s investigation (not even disclosed to the team) and rules governing comments about free agents – and unwilling to risk challenging Bauer’s well-established willingness to litigate.”
Jack Harris at the Los Angeles Times said of the Dodgers on Wednesday, “They also left several pressing questions unanswered, most notably the details of a meeting Dodgers executives had with Bauer the day before announcing they would release him.”
Of that January 5 meeting, Bauer in a statement the next day said, “I sat down with Dodgers leadership in Arizona yesterday told me that they wanted me to return and pitch for the team this year.”
The Dodgers disputed Bauer’s account of the meeting privately, and on Wednesday publicly offered their version, to a point.
Per Plunkett, Kasten said, “We did hear from him. I thought it was the right thing to do. I’m happy that we did it along with everything else that we did to reach the best decision that we could and I stand by our decision. I’m very comfortable with it.”
More Kasten, from Harris:
“I think we all had strong feelings and until we decided — those of us who made this decision — until we decided, I guess anything was possible,” Kasten said. “But I think we all had a strong feeling all the way through the process of the right way to handle this.”
The Dodgers used all of the allotted 14 days after Bauer was reinstated by Major League Baseball to make their decision whether to roster him. Why did it take so long?
“Most of what we know came from the fact that the commissioner’s office and the independent arbitrator reviewed all the aspects of the case and found him to be in violation (of the policy),” Friedman said, per Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic. “As we went through that, that was enough for us.”
The Dodgers are on the hook for the roughly $22.5 million remaining on Bauer’s contract, perhaps less the major league minimum of $720,000 should he sign with a new team. What’s been obvious since Bauer was reinstated by MLB on December 22 is that the Dodgers are projected to pay the competitive balance tax for a third consecutive year despite spending the bulk of their offseason acting like a team looking to get under the $233-million threshold for 2023.
“There was a great unknown in terms of how it would play out, and whether it would be scaled back entirely, upheld entirely, somewhere in the middle, which we obviously had no idea about,” Friedman said. “But we compartmentalized that, and it didn’t affect what we either did or tried to do.”
After signing a two-year contract with Tony Gonsolin on Tuesday to avoid arbitration, the Dodgers’ estimated 2023 payroll for competitive balance tax purposes is roughly $235.5 million.
For what it’s worth, Friedman also added — per both Plunkett and Ardaya — the Dodgers have no plans to make trades that might get the Dodgers under the threshold.