Are Yankees, Mets working hand in glove to prevent any Aaron Judge bidding war?

Aaron Judge of the Yankees
Inna Zeyger
Thursday November 17, 2022

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The MLB Players Association has asked Major League Baseball to look into whether the owners of the New York Yankees and the New York Mets talked about free agent Aaron Judge in a way that wasn’t right, according to sportswriter Ken Rosenthal. MLB is likely to ask both Hal Steinbrenner and his Mets counterpart Steve Cohen for their text, phone, and email records.

The MLBPA’s request came following an article on SNY.com on November 3 that quoted Mets sources to claim that Steinbrenner and Cohen “enjoy a mutually respectful relationship and don’t want a high-profile bidding war to change that.” The players’ association is always on the lookout for any signs that clubs might be working together to keep player salaries low.

The Athletic also claims that Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, said something else about free agent Justin Verlander that the MLBPA could look into. Crane recently said that Verlander wants a Max Scherzer contract, which means a three-year deal with a high salary. The collective bargaining agreement makes it very clear that clubs can’t talk about contract talks in public.

According to The Athletic, the union can still file a complaint about these. To win a grievance, the union would have to show that Aaron Judge or Verlander lost markets due to these comments. This could be hard to do since Aaron Judge and Verlander are two of the most sought-after free agents of the offseason. But the union is still worried that the owners will work together to keep free agent salaries low. They fear a repeat of what happened 30 years ago and still, the association calls it “the biggest collusion” in baseball history.

If the union files a complaint about what happened between the Mets and Yankees, an arbitrator will decide if the teams worked together. The union would have to prove that Aaron Judge was harmed and this could impede a significant amount of money he would have.

In the 1980s, the MLBPA made three such complaints. Independent arbitrators found that the MLB teams had “colluded to stop bidding wars” for free agents. Later, MLB and the MLBPA settled for $280 million. In 2006, after claims of collusion in 2002 and 2003, some teams acquiesced to pay $12 million but didn’t accept that they were at fault.

On Wednesday, everyone agreed that Verlander was the AL Cy Young winner. After hitting 62 home runs, Aaron Judge is the clear favorite to win AL MVP on Thursday.

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