On Tuesday, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars announced the signing of Trevor Bauer to a one-year contract.
Bauer was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on January 12, following an investigation into domestic violence that resulted in a reduced suspension from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Since his release, Bauer has been unable to find a team in the United States.
The Japanese media had little reaction to Bauer’s signing, with only small stories in their sports sections noting his Cy Young Award and the domestic violence case.
Yokohama’s first game of the season is on March 31 against the Hanshin Tigers, with their first home game on April 4 against the Yomiuri Giants.
Some newspapers noted that it has been 25 years since Yokohama last won the Japanese title and that 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.
Some knew about Bauer’s signing but only a few knew about the allegations against him.
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. However, most fans follow play in Japan’s league and its stars.
Manfred suspended Bauer last April for violating the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy, following allegations by a San Diego woman that 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.
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.
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.
Other teams in Japan have made at least one 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 and has signed for this season with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.
Bauer was an All-Star in 2018 and won the NL Cy Young Award with Cincinnati during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.