The 2019 season has yet to begin and already Cleveland Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer has secured a huge win. He defeated the club in an arbitration hearing earlier this week, meaning he will earn $13 million this year rather than the $11 million the team was offering. Bauer beat the Indians in arbitration last year as well.

The arbitration hearing was Wednesday in Florida and Bauer was back at the team's spring training camp in Arizona on Thursday. He told reporters, including the Associated Press, the hearing devolved into "character assassination" in the final minutes as MLB's labor relations staff brought up his social media usage in an effort to help the Indians.

"The intent behind it, that I would characterize, was to demean my character," Bauer said Thursday. "That kind of put a black mark on what I thought was a really well-argued case on both sides. There's no room for that ... Let's just stick to the numbers. Let the numbers decide." 

Bauer is very active on social media and his Twitter account has gotten him into hot water with MLB. He accused the Astros of doctoring baseballs last year, and, more recently, a college student in Texas accused Bauer of harassing her onlineLast year Bauer implied the league censored his tweets, which MLB can do under the league's collectively bargained social media policy.

During an arbitration hearing each side states its case and explains why the player deserves the salary he filed last month. The three-person panel will then pick the player's number or the team's number, nothing in-between. Article VI(E)(10) of the collective bargaining states what is and is not permissible during an arbitration hearing. "Character" is not explicitly covered:

The criteria will be the quality of the Player's contribution to his Club during the past season (including but not limited to his overall performance, special qualities of leadership and public appeal), the length and consistency of his career contribution, the record of the Player's past compensation, comparative baseball salaries (see paragraph (11) below for confidential salary data), the existence of any physical or mental defects on the part of the Player, and the recent performance record of the Club including but not limited to its League standing and attendance as an indication of public acceptance (subject to the exclusion stated in subparagraph (b)(i) below). Except as set forth in subsections 10(b) and 10(c) below, any evidence may be submitted which is relevant to the above criteria, and the arbitration panel shall assign such weight to the evidence as shall appear appropriate under the circumstances. 

Clubs usually hire an outside firm to make their case to maintain a degree of separation because arbitration hearings can be contentious and create bad blood. In this case, Bauer made it clear the Indians did not bring up his social media usage during the hearing. It was MLB's labor relations representative present at the hearing.

It's possible bringing up Bauer's social media doomed the team during the hearing. Arbitration is a fairly straightforward process in which each side uses stats to compare the player to others at the same service time level, and argue they deserve a certain salary. Even though Bauer's social media has been an issue at times, bringing something as ambiguous as "character" into the discussion may've backfired.

Bauer, 28, had a 2.21 ERA with 221 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings last season before a comebacker broke a bone in his leg in mid August. He will be arbitration-eligible again next offseason -- Bauer will be a free agent following 2020 -- and told reporters Thursday he plans to go to another hearing so he can "set the record raise and record salary in arbitration for a starting pitcher."

The record raise for an arbitration-eligible starting pitcher was set this year by Jacob deGrom at $9.6 million. He went from $7.4 million in 2018 to $17 million in 2019 following his Cy Young win. David Price holds the arbitration-eligible starting pitcher salary record at $19.75 million in 2015. A record raise would be put Bauer's 2020 salary at $22.6 million or so.