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Should the Tigers Sign This Former Cy Young Award Winner?

Publish Date: 06/03/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

MLB Baseball

It can be tempting to feel some excitement about the Detroit Tigers given the way the team finished the 2023 season. The Tigers went 18-10 from Sept. 1 on, and ended up in second place, their best finish in the standings since 2016.

But this is still a franchise with many, many questions. Pitching is one of them. Which is why the team should consider signing a former Cy Young Award winner, even if he’s clouded in controversy.

Trevor Bauer's Complicated Journey

2020 National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer will be a free agent this offseason. He just completed a season in Japan, and he’s rehabbing from a lower-body injury suffered while fielding a ball for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.

But Bauer would be bringing back more than just suitcases with him if he traveled from Japan to Detroit to sign a contract. He’s got a lot of non-luggage “baggage.”

Off-Field Controversy

In 2021, in his first year of a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bauer was accused of sexual assault. Long story short: the righthander was placed on leave, and later suspended. He continually denied responsibility.

No charges were filed against Bauer, and when the alleged victim asked a California court to grant her a restraining order on Bauer, she was denied. Regardless, the Dodgers refused to reinstate Bauer.

He sat, and waited, and claimed his innocence. Last spring he was released, and not a single MLB team contacted Bauer or his agent. He was paid $25.8 million by the Dodgers to not pitch for them. That’s when he went to Japan, where he had a fine season when healthy.

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Recent Developments

In early October, it was revealed that the woman who made the accusations against Bauer had settled her lawsuit against the former Cy Young winner. According to her lawyer, Bauer did not pay her any money. Bauer took to YouTube and shared evidence that the woman had targeted him because he was a millionaire ballplayer. That evidence, if it’s accurate, is compelling.

Bauer’s deal in Japan was for just this one season. That seems like it was a calculated move: he’s eyeing a return to MLB. But will any team touch him? Does the news this month make a difference?

Will fans forget and forgive, in light of the statements made by Bauer and the accuser’s attorney? Can there be justice for someone falsely accused? Was Bauer a victim? Or has he simply squirmed his way out of trouble legally?

On the Field Excellence

When he’s focused on pitching, Bauer is a potential ace. Even before the allegations against him (another woman has claimed he assaulted her), Bauer could be an insufferable athlete. He comes across as being a know-it-all, practically uncoachable. He’s embroiled himself in feuds with the commissioner’s office.

He’s thrust himself into the controversy over the use of sticky substances to make the baseball spin better. His unorthodox training methods and commitment to data-driven pitching techniques set him apart, and irritated more than one pitching coach.

He struts and prances and presents himself as a cocksure bully, a player who is easy to hate. But, those traits don’t make him a criminal, and they shouldn’t make him ineligible to play in the major leagues.

Potential MLB Return

If MLB has issued an edict to teams about Bauer, urging he not be signed, that’s wrong, and likely illegal. I’d be surprised if the commissioner was dumb enough to be that overt in blackballing Bauer, but it wouldn’t be the first time MLB acted conspiratorially or in an idiotic way.

But if MLB teams simply steered clear of the controversial Bauer because of his image, that’s their prerogative. However, as we’ve seen in sports many times: ultimately talent trumps despicability. Hey, Michael Vick got back into the NFL after serving prison time for financing dogfighting.

Ray Lewis’s body guard might have killed someone at a Super Bowl, and the linebacker was barely tainted. Alex Rodriguez, with all he did to baseball, was welcomed back again, and again.

But Bauer can ball. His fastball velocity can touch 100 miles per hour, and his extensive repertoire of pitches make him a formidable opponent on the mound. In 2020, Bauer signed with the Cincinnati Reds, where he reached new heights. That year, he led the National League in earned run average and won the Cy Young Award. He’s not shown anything on the field since that makes one think he can’t pitch that well again.

If any MLB team does give Bauer a chance as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, they could be securing the services of one of the most dynamic pitchers in the sport. Bauer will also be highly motivated to prove his critics wrong. You have to figure he’ll want to "stick it to MLB” and those who kept him out of the best professional baseball league in the world.

The Tigers' Bold Move?

Would Scott Harris, president of the Detroit Tigers, take a chance on Bauer? Would the Tigers place the 32-year old right-hander, an All-Star in Japan, at the top of its rotation, along with potentially Eduardo Rodriguez and the emerging Tarik Skubal?

How far the Tigers will go in the near future depends on many factors, including their willingness to be bold. Inviting Bauer back to the United States and taking a chance on him, perhaps with a very sweet discounted one-year deal, might be worth the short-term public relations hit.

Stay informed with the latest developments from around the world by exploring our News Section.

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