On Sunday night, Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías was arrested in Los Angeles on felony domestic violence charges. He was booked in jail before being released on a $50,000 bond and has an arraignment court day set for Sept. 27.
In 2019, Urías was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery, and although he was not charged, MLB’s investigation at the time resulted in a 20-game suspension.
Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that Urías had been placed on administrative leave while the league investigates. The 27-year-old left-handed pitcher is in the final year of his contract with Los Angeles, set to become a free agent after this season. With a court date set for the last week of the regular season, it seems highly unlikely that Urías will throw another pitch for the Dodgers.
Scant details about the precipitating incident have been made public, and both the legal and league investigations are still in the early stages. But here’s what we know about how this could play out.
Urías could be on admin leave indefinitely
MLB and the Players Association’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy allows the commissioner to unilaterally place an accused player on administrative leave for seven days. That can be re-upped through an agreement with the union. In the past, such as with Trevor Bauer, that seven-day period has been extended numerous times to cover the length of legal proceedings.
In Urías’ case — and also in the case of Rays shortstop Wander Franco, as the league and Dominican authorities investigate accusations that he engaged in a relationship with a minor — MLB and the union have agreed to an indefinite administrative leave while the league investigates.
Players on administrative leave still receive pay and accrue service time. The policy explicitly spells out that “placement of a Player on Administrative Leave shall not be considered disciplinary.”
It’s not clear how Urías’ previous suspension would impact punishment this time
In the similarly bargained Joint Drug Agreement, suspension lengths are spelled out — for first-time and repeat offenders. The first failed drug test results in an 80-game suspension, the second results in a 162-game suspension, and after a third failed test, a player would be permanently suspended from baseball.
The DV policy, however, is not prescriptive in its discipline. This is intentional, so that the specifics of an individual case can be factored into the severity of the punishment. Since the policy was implemented, suspensions have ranged from 15 games to Bauer’s 324, which was later reduced to 194 games. In every case except Bauer’s, the Players Association and the league have agreed to the suspension, and thus, they would not qualify as precedent. In other words, only Bauer’s suspension was the result of an imposed punishment based on the findings of an investigation and thus can be cited as precedent.
Should the league find cause to suspend Urías, it stands to reason that he would once again agree to a suspension negotiated ahead of its announcement, but there’s no formula for figuring out how long that would be. Since the policy was agreed to in 2015, no player has been suspended a second time.
It is unlikely that MLB would conclude its investigation or announce punishment, if applicable, before the legal proceedings have concluded
If a player is facing criminal charges, he would be incredibly unlikely to participate in the league’s investigation, simply because no lawyer would advise their client to sit for an interview with MLB while still under active legal investigation. But the league would strongly prefer to give the player an opportunity to participate before making any conclusions. As a result, MLB is unlikely to issue a ruling on Urías before there is resolution in the legal system.
Even if a player is not found guilty in the legal system, MLB can — and has in the past — choose to discipline him based on its own investigatory findings.
If MLB levies a suspension, that term will be served if and when Urías signs with a new team
If MLB finds cause to suspend Urías, it will almost certainly be handed down after he becomes a free agent this winter. That suspension would follow him to a new team, should anyone sign him. Three players have received suspensions under the DV policy while they were free agents (Derek Norris, Sam Dyson and Carlos Martínez); none of them returned to Major League Baseball.
Urías will be heading into his age-28 season and has been much more valuable thus far in his career than the free agents who were suspended in the past. If MLB finds cause to suspend him, he would serve that suspension at the start of the next contract he signs. Disciplinary suspensions are unpaid, which means the new team would not be on the hook for some portion of his contract. They would, however, be knowingly adding a player who has allegedly engaged in some form of domestic violence on multiple occasions.