Andrew Friedman has two uncertainties hanging over him entering this offseason.
One is not exclusive to the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. All 30 front offices are unsure how Major League Baseball and the players’ union will handle negotiations when the collective bargaining agreement expires Dec. 1. The expectation is a lockout is imminent.
The other is a dilemma just for Friedman and his underlings: What will happen to Trevor Bauer?
MLB placed Bauer on paid administrative leave July 2, three days after a woman accused him of sexual assault and obtained a temporary restraining order against him in Pasadena. Bauer didn’t pitch for the Dodgers for the remainder of the season.
In a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, Friedman declined to say whether Bauer, who signed for $102 million in February, will ever wear a Dodgers uniform again.
“It’s no different than where we were in July, August and September,” Friedman said. “From our standpoint, it’s being handled by the league office. As soon as something is decided, we will come down and talk through it extensively with you guys. But until that happens, we have to reserve comment.”
A judge denied the woman’s request for a permanent restraining order in August. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is still deciding whether to charge Bauer with any crimes while MLB’s investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Bauer is also still ongoing.
The league is expected to suspend Bauer. The questions are when and for how long? Friedman said he didn’t know either answer after Bauer was given $40 million — the highest single-season salary in MLB history — to make 17 starts.
Both answers could have an impact on the Dodgers’ offseason activity. The sooner MLB announces the ruling, the better it is for the organization.
The length of the suspension will determine how much of Bauer’s $32-million base salary for 2022 the Dodgers must pay. The longer the suspension, the more money the Dodgers save, which could then be allocated to other players if not pocketed by ownership.
“It will have some [effect],” Friedman said. “The extent of it, I don’t know yet. But it’s something real and we have to figure out what that means, but it will more fall out of whatever MLB finds through their investigation and what they decide. And then we’ll have to figure out from there what makes the most sense for us.”
The Dodgers’ 2021 payroll was the highest in the majors, totaling $267 million, according to Spotrac.com. It was the most expensive roster in franchise history. The riches bought them 106 regular-season wins and the team’s fifth National League Championship Series trip in six seasons, but two wins shy of the pennant.
“We talked a lot in spring how we were more aggressive with our payroll this year,” Friedman said. “In some years, we’re more aggressive than others, but always having that core talent in place to go out and win. So the No. 1 objective for us is to put ourselves in the best position to win in 2022, and I feel confident we’ll be able to do that.”
That task requires addressing starting pitching whether or not Bauer throws another pitch for the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are free agents. Dustin May underwent Tommy John surgery in May. Tony Gonsolin took a step back in 2021.
The Dodgers have in-house options. Mitch White and Andre Jackson contributed this season. Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Landon Knack could debut in 2022. But the Dodgers figure to pursue external help in free agency or via trade. When they do, Friedman said, without offering details, the vetting process will improve after Bauer’s disastrous signing.
“We will try to,” Friedman said. “We always want as much information as we can possibly get. There are some restrictions on what we can do, but we always want as much as we can, so I would hope that with everything we do, we’re better now than we were two years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, and I hope five years from now we’ll be way better than we are now.
“We’re continuing to learn and evolve and learn from mistakes and continue to get better in everything we do.”