At just thirty-two years old, some may argue that former Cy Young Award winner and All-Star Pitcher Trevor Bauer is still in the prime of his career. Bauer, however, has not thrown a pitch in the major leagues since June 2021, when he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at his home in Pasadena, California. 1Brent Schrotenboer, Trevor Bauer strikes out again in federal court as defamation claims dwindle, USA TODAY (Mar. 2, 2023) https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2023/03/02/trevor-bauer-defamation-lawsuits-deadspin-dismissed/11383716002/.Bauer was placed on administrative leave for the remainder of the 2021 Major League Baseball (“MLB”) season, later handed a 324-game suspension, and in December 2022, was reinstated to the league by an arbiter after missing 194 games. 2Jeff Passan, Trevor Bauer Signs 1-Year Deal to Play in Japan, ESPN (Mar. 13, 2023) https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/35842810/sources-trevor-bauer-finalizing-deal-play-japan.Despite his reinstatement, the Dodgers elected to release him in January, and no MLB team has demonstrated any real interest in signing Bauer. 3Id. Recently, he signed a 1-year contract with a team in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.4Id.
Bauer denied the sexual assault allegations against him, and the woman’s request for a restraining order against him was denied. 5Bill Shaikin, Another Trevor Bauer defamation suit is thrown out, The Los Angeles Times (Mar. 1, 2023) https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2023-03-01/trevor-bauer-dodgers-defamation-deadspin.Additionally, no charges were filed against Bauer. 6Id.In the aftermath of the sexual assault allegations, Bauer has brought three defamation lawsuits against different media outlets and individuals.7Schrotenboer, supra note 1.
The Defamation Suits
Since March 2022, Bauer has filed three defamation lawsuits, all in different courts. 8Id.Respectively, these suits were brought against: (1) G/O Media (the parent company of Deadspin) and Deadspin managing editor, Chris Baud;9Christian Red, Trevor Bauer’s Legal Blitz Of Defamation Claims Has So Far Yielded Zero Victories, FORBES (Mar. 8, 2023) https://www.forbes.com/sites/christianred/2023/03/08/trevor-bauers-legal-blitz-of-defamation-claims-has-so-far-yielded-zero-victories/?sh=1fa219a11ba9. (2) The Athletic Media Company and journalist Molly Knight;10Id. and (3) the woman who accused him of sexual assault, along with her former lawyer. 11Schrotenboer, supra note 1.
In the Deadspin case, Bauer alleged that Deadspin “capitalized on a false accusation” and “persisted in publishing defamatory falsehoods even after other publications, including Deadspin’s own source, corrected their coverage.” 12Red, supra note 8. The mentioned source is The Athletic – a defendant in another defamation lawsuit filed by Bauer.13Id. Bauer’s suit against The Athletic and Knight – brought in the Central District of California – was originally dismissed, but Bauer amended his complaint, which is now based upon tweets by Knight. 14Id.The complaint alleged that The Athletic and Knight “creat[ed] and spread the false narrative that Mr. Bauer fractured the [woman’s] skull.”15Schrotenboer, supra note 1.
Finally, Bauer’s suit against the alleged victim and her former lawyer claimed that they “wanted to destroy Mr. Bauer’s reputation and baseball career, garner attention … and extract millions of dollars from Mr. Bauer.”16Red, supra note 8.
Where the Suits Stand Today
Currently, the suit against G/O Media and Deadspin managing editor Chris Baud has since been dismissed with prejudice. 17ISchrotenboer, supra note 1. The presiding judge wrote that under New York law, there are five elements that a defamation plaintiff must establish, including “falsity of defamatory statement.”18Red, supra note 8. Bauer, however, did not meet this burden, as the complained of statements were determined to be “privileged statements” that are “a substantially accurate summation of the judicial proceedings surrounding the petition.”19Id.
Regarding the case against the alleged victim and her lawyer, Bauer’s case against the lawyer was dismissed in November, and the two sides later reached a settlement. 20Schrotenboer, supra note 1. The case against the woman is still pending, though she has been allowed to proceed with a countersuit against him, alleging sexual assault and battery.21Bill Shaikin, Judge rules twice against Trevor Bauer, allows his accuser to continue her countersuit, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES (Nov. 23, 2022) https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-11-23/judge-rules-against-trevor-bauer.
Finally, the case against The Athletic and its former journalist, Molly Knight, is still pending. 22Schrotenboer, supra note 1. Knight recently appealed a December 2022 decision to not dismiss her as a defendant in the case, and it is expected that The New York Times, the parent company of The Athletic, will seek to dismiss Bauer’s amended complaint soon.23.J. Perez, New York Times, Journalist to Appeal Trevor Bauer Lawsuit Ruling, FRONT OFFICE SPORTS (Feb. 2, 2023) https://frontofficesports.com/new-york-times-journalist-to-appeal-trevor-bauer-lawsuit-ruling/
What Happens Next?
In his amended complaint against The Athletic and Knight, Bauer claims that he “is entitled to general damages because he has alleged compliance with California’s retraction statute, California Civil Code § 48a.” 24First Amended Complaint at 26, Bauer v. The Athletic Media Co. et al., No. 2:22-cv-02062-MWF-AGR (C.D. Cal. Jan. 31, 2023). Additionally, Bauer also claims that he is entitled to both special and punitive damages. 25Id. at 29. In California, “the elements of a defamation claim are (1) a publication that is (2) false, (3) defamatory, (4) unprivileged, and (5) has a natural tendency to injure or cause special damage.” 26Issa v Applegate, 31 Cal. App, 5th 689, 701 (Cal. Ct. App. 2019). When a plaintiff seeks to maintain an action for defamation by implication, they have the burden of showing:
(1) his or her interpretation of the statement is reasonable; (2) the implication or implications to be drawn convey defamatory facts, not opinions; (3) the challenged implications are not “substantially true”; and (4) the identified reasonable implications could also be reasonably deemed defamatory.27Id. at 707.
While Bauer’s suit against G/O Media and Baud was dismissed based on not being false, the result of the suit against The Athletic and Knight could be influenced heavily by the result of the countersuit by the alleged victim against Bauer, specifically with regards to the element of showing “the challenged implications are not ‘substantially true’,” as the woman’s countersuit against Bauer would decide on the issue of whether Bauer committed assault or battery if it were to reach trial.28Shaikin, supra note 20.
A January 2023 survey of about two-dozen agents and league executives by ESPN believe it is unlikely Bauer will return to the MLB. 29Alden Gonzalez, What’s next for Trevor Bauer’s MLB career after Dodgers release, ESPN (Jan. 6, 2023) https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/35386580/dodgers-release-trevor-bauer-mlb-career. While one general manager plainly stated “[a]ll it takes is one team,” all 30 teams passing on the opportunity to sign Bauer this winter is a sign that the survey’s negative feedback is indicative of the league’s general attitude towards signing him.30Id.
Next year, Bauer is slated to become a free agent again, and time will tell whether this sentiment remains regarding his potential return to the MLB. 31Passan, supra note 2. Unfortunately, domestic violence is an issue that has not stopped teams from acquiring players in the past, as the Houston Astros notably traded for closer Roberto Osuna in July 2018, despite him being serving a 75-game suspension under the MLB’s domestic violence policy at the time.32Astros trade for suspended Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna, ESPN (Jul. 30, 2018) https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/24236541/houston-astros-acquire-reliever-roberto-osuna-trade-toronto-blue-jays. As it stands, it seems as if teams are at least waiting for a resolution on Bauer’s legal proceedings before considering signing him for an MLB return. The matter of particular importance is likely the alleged victim’s countersuit against him, as a legal conclusion on whether Bauer committed assault or battery is likely something that teams are monitoring.
Written by: Dylan Quirk
Dylan is a 2025 J.D. Candidate at Brooklyn Law School
1 “Brent Schrotenboer, Trevor Bauer strikes out again in federal court as defamation claims dwindle, USA Today (Mar. 2, 2023) https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2023/03/02/trevor-bauer-defamation-lawsuits-deadspin-dismissed/11383716002/.
2 Jeff Passan, Trevor Bauer Signs 1-Year Deal to Play in Japan, ESPN (Mar. 13, 2023) https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/35842810/sources-trevor-bauer-finalizing-deal-play-japan.
5 Bill Shaikin, Another Trevor Bauer defamation suit is thrown out, The Los Angeles Times (Mar. 1, 2023) https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2023-03-01/trevor-bauer-dodgers-defamation-deadspin.
7 Schrotenboer, supra note 1.
9 Christian Red, Trevor Bauer’s Legal Blitz Of Defamation Claims Has So Far Yielded Zero Victories, Forbes (Mar. 8, 2023) https://www.forbes.com/sites/christianred/2023/03/08/trevor-bauers-legal-blitz-of-defamation-claims-has-so-far-yielded-zero-victories/?sh=1fa219a11ba9.
11 Schrotenboer, supra note 1.
12 Red, supra note 8.
15 Schrotenboer, supra note 1.
16 Red, supra note 8.
17 Schrotenboer, supra note 1.
18 Red, supra note 8.
20 Schrotenboer, supra note 1.
21 Bill Shaikin, Judge rules twice against Trevor Bauer, allows his accuser to continue her countersuit, The Los Angeles Times (Nov. 23, 2022) https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-11-23/judge-rules-against-trevor-bauer.
22 Schrotenboer, supra note 1. 23 A.J. Perez, New York Times, Journalist to Appeal Trevor Bauer Lawsuit Ruling, Front Office Sports (Feb. 2, 2023) https://frontofficesports.com/new-york-times-journalist-to-appeal-trevor-bauer-lawsuit-ruling/.
24 First Amended Complaint at 26, Bauer v. The Athletic Media Co. et al., No. 2:22-cv-02062-MWF-AGR (C.D. Cal. Jan. 31, 2023).
25 Id. at 29
26 Issa v Applegate, 31 Cal. App, 5th 689, 701 (Cal. Ct. App. 2019).
27 Id. at 707.
28 Shaikin, supra note 20.
29 Alden Gonzalez, What’s next for Trevor Bauer’s MLB career after Dodgers release, ESPN (Jan. 6, 2023) https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/35386580/dodgers-release-trevor-bauer-mlb-career.
31 Passan, supra note 2.
32 Astros trade for suspended Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna, ESPN (Jul. 30, 2018) https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/24236541/houston-astros-acquire-reliever-roberto-osuna-trade-toronto-blue-jays.