GOODYEAR, Ariz. — All-Star pitcher Trevor Bauer thought the Cleveland Indians had presented a better overall case against him in their latest salary arbitration hearing, until the last 10 minutes in a rebuttal by Major League Baseball labor relations staff he viewed as “character assassination” against him.
“That kind of put a black mark on what I thought was a really well-argued case on both sides,” Bauer said Thursday, a day after beating the Indians in arbitration for the second year in a row. “There’s no room for that. ... Let’s just stick to the numbers. Let the numbers decide.”
A day after Wednesday’s hearing in Florida, Bauer was awarded $13 million by the three-person panel over the Indians’ $11 million offer. Bauer who won’t be eligible until free agency until after the 2020 season, said he never plans to sign more than a one-year contract. The pitcher said the process hasn’t soured his feelings about the team.
“No, I understand it,” Bauer said. “I look at it as a very intellectual pursuit. It’s very intellectual and not very emotional. They actually apologized to me immediately afterward, the other side in front of the arbitrator.”
Bauer pointed out that “the higher-ups on the team don’t go. They have lawyers argue the case for them.”
He had sent formal personalized invitations to Indians president Chris Antonetti and general manager Mitch Chernoff to attend his hearing. He said that was meant as “kind of a joke and ease the tension that could be created” by such situations, and Antonetti said it was taken as a “good-natured joke.”
With the process settled for this season, Bauer and the AL Central champion Indians move forward together.
“After talking to Trevor, it’s no different than it is last year,” Antonetti said. “He has this unique ability to be very clinical about things, and look at things very rationally.”
Several hours after his initial comments, and speaking with Antonetti, Bauer spoke to reporters again and said he wanted to be clear he had no ill will toward the Indians or anyone involved in the process. He repeated he enjoys the chess match that is part of arbitration.
In his 2018 case, Bauer won a raise from $3.55 million to $6,525,000 after Cleveland offered $5.3 million.
That was more money than even he anticipated, so Bauer donated that extra to charity and looked for a way to create awareness for the causes that would be supported by his campaign. In his “69 days of giving,” he donated $420.69 to a different charity over 68 days, and then $69,420.69 to another charity on the last day.
Bauer indicated that the social meanings of those numbers — 420 is associated with marijuana use, and 69 has a sexual connotation — were presented in the final rebuttal by MLB Labor Relations Department representatives.
“The intent behind it, that I would characterize, was to demean my character,” Bauer said.
The pitcher acknowledged those numbers were used to draw as much attention as possible to the charity campaign and organizations that benefited from it.
“Specific numbers that mean other things socially, everybody looks at it, and everybody jokes about it, and it continues the news cycle on that,” he said.
The 28-year-old right-hander, a first-time All-Star last year, finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting after going 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA. He missed six weeks late in the season after getting hit on the right leg by a line drive.
In seven seasons with the Indians, Bauer is 59-47 with a 3.94 ERA in 160 games. He has won 52 games the past four years.
Bauer already anticipates going through the arbitration process again next year.
“I’m going to set the record raise and record salary in arbitration for a starting pitcher next year,” he said. “So I can’t imagine the (MLB Labor Relations Department) will ever allow a team to just agree, whether it’s the Indians or another team.”
The pitcher said his 2018 season could have been worth $30 million on the free agent market.
“Next year I expect to be paid in line with what my season in 2019 is worth, which would never be agreed upon before a hearing,” he said.