At the request of the MLB Players Association, Major League Baseball is investigating whether owners of the New York Yankees and New York Mets have had inappropriate communication about free agent Aaron Judge, The Athletic reports. MLB is expected to request text, phone and email records between Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and Mets owner Steve Cohen.
The MLBPA’s request stems from a Nov. 3 SNY article citing Mets sources as stating that Steinbrenner and Cohen “have a mutually respectful relationship and don’t expect to turn that upside down with a high-profile bidding war.” “. The union is always wary of anything that could potentially be a collusion between clubs to cut player salaries.
On Thursday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred discussed the matter with reporters. This is what he said through Evan Drellich:
“I have complete confidence that the clubs have acted in a manner consistent with the agreement. This was based on a newspaper report. We will put ourselves in a position to credibly demonstrate to the MLBPA that this no problem I’m sure that will be the outcome, but of course we understand the emotion that surrounds that word [collusion] and we will proceed accordingly.”
The Athletic also notes a separate comment from Houston Astros owner Jim Crane about free agent Justin Verlander that could also be investigated by the MLBPA., which means a three-year contract with a high salary. The collective bargaining agreement strictly prohibits clubs from publicly discussing contract negotiations.
Here’s more from The Athletic:
The union reserves the right to make a complaint about either or both situations. To win a suit, the union would have to prove that the markets for Judge and/or Verlander were damaged, which could be tough considering they’re two of the off-season’s most coveted free agents. But the union remains sensitive to the threat of owners conspiring to keep free agent salaries low, as they did more than 30 years ago in the sport’s biggest collusion cases.
If the union files a complaint about the situation with the Mets and Yankees, an arbitrator will determine whether there is collusion. The union would have to prove individually that Judge had been harmed. He would receive triple compensation.
The MLBPA filed three complaints of conspiracy in the 1980s, and independent arbitrators ruled that the owners worked together to avoid bidding wars between free agents. MLB and the MLBPA later settled on a $280 million settlement. The owners also agreed to pay $12 million in 2006 without an admission of guilt following collusion claims in 2002 and 2003.
. Judge is the overwhelming favorite to be named AL MVP on Thursday after his 62-homer season. .