Monday, June 24, 2024

Dodgers ‘comfortable’ with the way Trevor Bauer situation played out

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LOS ANGELES — For 18 months after sexual assault allegations against Trevor Bauer became public, Dodgers officials were hesitant to say anything about the situation, saying they would let the process put in place by MLB and the players’ union play out before making any comments.

That process has played out, resulting in the longest suspension in the history of MLB’s domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy (194 games, reduced from its original 324 games after Bauer appealed) and ultimately in Bauer’s release by the Dodgers earlier this month.

And the Dodgers still don’t really want to talk about it.

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.

“All of you know … this wasn’t unanimous out in the real world among fans or other media or whatnot,” Kasten said of the decision to release Bauer. “But the decision we reached was unanimous among the people that were charged with having to make the decision.”

Kasten acknowledged that the Dodgers were caught by surprise by the timing of the arbitrator’s decision, coming as it did just days before Christmas with MLB and teams about to close their offices for the holiday.

With 14 days to make a decision on adding Bauer back to their roster, the Dodgers used every bit of it before designating him for assignment – a delay Kasten defended, saying the Dodgers wanted to “check all our bases, get all the input you could get to make a decision.”

That included a meeting between Dodgers officials and Bauer in Arizona, their first communication since Bauer was put on administrative leave in July 2021. In a statement released by Bauer, he claimed that at that meeting the Dodgers “told me they wanted me to return and pitch for the team this year.”

Kasten and Friedman would not address that claim directly. But indirectly, they made it clear that was not their version of the conversation.

“We wouldn’t even have talked about the meeting except someone else put it out there,” Kasten said, not using Bauer’s name. “So I don’t want to talk about what happened. I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t want to talk about what went on, what was discussed or who was there. 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.”

Kasten also dismissed questions about whether there were any conditions under which Bauer could have returned to the Dodgers.

“I don’t want to talk about hypotheticals. I won’t talk about hypotheticals,” he said.

“Look – we made our decision. We’ll live or die with whatever anyone thinks about it. But we are very comfortable with the decision and the process that we utilized to get there.”

By releasing Bauer, the Dodgers are obligated to pay him more than $22 million in salary this season – minus the minimum salary he could receive if another team signs him. Not knowing until the appeal decision how much of Bauer’s salary they might have to pay seemed to be a drag on the Dodgers’ offseason plans. Asked directly if he regretted signing Bauer to a three-year, $102 million contract two years ago, Friedman did not answer directly.

“I mean, the way it played out is obviously not what we thought,” Friedman said. “But with the way things have transpired, we feel good about our decision to move on and focus on the guys that we have and showing up to Camelback Ranch in a few weeks ready to do all we can to win a championship this year.”

Contradicting most analysis this winter, Friedman said the Dodgers were going to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax threshold even before the Bauer decision and that was not a hindrance to anything they tried to do this winter. The team is well over the CBT for the third consecutive season, Friedman said, and he doesn’t expect to make any moves to get the payroll under the threshold for the luxury tax (approximately $233 million).

“I mean, obviously, it was a great unknown,” Friedman said. “But I don’t think it impacted what we either did or attempted to do this offseason. There was a great unknown in terms of how it would play out and whether it would be scaled back entirely, upheld entirely or somewhere in the middle, which we obviously had no idea about. But we compartmentalized that and it didn’t affect what we either did or tried to do.”

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