TOKYO (AP) — The signing of Trevor Bauer to a one-year contract by the Yokohama DeNA BayStars generated little reaction Wednesday in the Japanese media.
The 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Jan. 12, three weeks after an arbitrator reduced his suspension imposed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred from 324 to 194 games. The penalty followed an investigation into domestic violence, which the pitcher has denied.
Since his release, Bauer has been shunned by big league teams in the United States.
The Yokohama team announced his acquisition on Tuesday. Japan’s mainstream newspapers had small stories in their sports sections Wednesday about Bauer, noting his Cy Young Award and the domestic violence case.
RonSpo, a small outlet devoted to sports, began its story by saying: “An astoundingly big-name major league player is coming to Yokohama.”
Yokohama opens its season March 31 at Osaka’s Hanshin Tigers. The first home game in Yokohama is April 4 against Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants.
Many newspapers noted it’s been 25 years since Yokohama last won the Japanese title, and Bauer could be the difference-maker.
An informal survey of young fans outside the Tokyo Dome buying World Baseball Classic tickets yielded a mix of responses. Several knew Bauer was coming to Japan, but only a few knew about the allegations against him.
“Some Japanese baseball fans will know his name, but most don’t know anything about him,” said Ichiro Mizutani, an 18-year-old fan of the Tokyo Giants.
Mitsuki Akazawa wore a blue Los Angeles Dodgers cap and said he knew all about Bauer.
“I know he has some difficult issues,” the 21-year-old said, calling them “domestic problems.”
“But he was not found guilty in court. So I’m not sure if he was in the wrong,” he added.
Rentaro Kataoka, an 18-year-old who said he was also a Giants fans, recognized Bauer’s name but thought he might be coming to help coach Japanese pitchers. He knew nothing about any legal complications.
Several young fans noted that interest in Bauer is sure to build as the season nears, particularly if he is dominant in the Japanese league. They also emphasized that, though many fans follow American baseball, most are focused on play in Japan’s league and its stars.
Manfred suspended Bauer last April for violating the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy, after a San Diego woman said he beat and sexually abused her in 2021.
Bauer has maintained he did nothing wrong, saying everything that happened between him and the woman was consensual. He was never charged with a crime.
Bauer joined his hometown Dodgers before the 2021 season and was 8-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts before being placed on paid leave.
He is owed about $22.5 million from the remainder of his $102 million, three-year contract with the Dodgers. The suspension has cost him roughly $37.6 million in salary.
In February 2022, Los Angeles prosecutors decided not to charge Bauer for allegedly beating and sexually abusing the San Diego woman because they said they were unable to prove her accusations beyond a reasonable doubt.
The woman, who was 27 at the time, said Bauer choked her into unconsciousness, punched her repeatedly and sexually assaulted her during two sexual encounters.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault.
Bauer said in a video posted on YouTube after the prosecutor’s decision that he and the woman engaged in rough sex at her suggestion and followed guidelines they agreed to in advance. Each encounter ended with her spending the night at his Pasadena home, he said.
“The disturbing acts and conduct that she described simply did not occur,” he said at the time.
Other teams in Japan have made similar signing before.
Former major league reliever Roberto Osuna — who received a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy — signed last season with the Chiba Lotte Marines.
He has signed for this season with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.
In 1987, Dodgers relief pitcher Steve Howe, who had a career plagued with drug problems, tried to sign with the Seibu Lions. But he was barred from playing in the country after the Japanese baseball commissioner disqualified Howe because of his history of drug abuse.
Bauer was an All-Star in 2018 and went 83-69 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 seasons for Arizona (2012), Cleveland, (2013-19), Cincinnati (2019-20) and the Dodgers. He won the NL Cy Young Award with Cincinnati during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.