MLB investigating Mets and Yankees over possible inappropriate communication regarding Judge Aaron, report says

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At the request of the MLB Players Association, Major League Baseball is investigating whether owners of the New York Yankees and New York Mets had inappropriate communications regarding free agent Aaron Judge, reports The Athletic. MLB is expected to request text, phone and email records between Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and Mets owner Steve Cohen.

The MLBPA request stems from a Nov. 3 article that cited Mets sources and said Steinbrenner and Cohen “enjoyed a mutually respectful relationship and did not expect to upset it with a bidding war. very publicized”. The union is always on alert for anything that could possibly constitute collusion between clubs to drive down player wages.

The Athletic also notes that a separate comment from Houston Astros owner Jim Crane regarding free agent Justin Verlander may also come to the attention of the MLBPA. Crane recently said that Verlander is looking for a contract with Max Scherzer, meaning a well-paying three-year contract. The collective agreement strictly prohibits clubs from publicly discussing contract negotiations.

Here’s more from The Athletic:

The union retains the right to file a grievance on either or both situations. To win a grievance, the union would have to prove that Judge and/or Verlander’s markets were damaged, which could be difficult given that they are two of the most coveted free agents of the offseason. But the union remains sensitive to the threat that owners will plot to keep free agent salaries, as they did more than 30 years ago in the biggest collusion cases in sport.

If the union files a grievance about the situation with the Mets and Yankees, an arbitrator will determine whether there was collusion. The union separately would have to prove that the judge was injured. He would risk receiving treble damages.

The MLBPA filed three collusion grievances in the 1980s, and independent arbitrators ruled that the owners were working together to prevent free agent bidding wars. MLB and MLBPA then agreed to a $280 million settlement. The owners also agreed to pay $12 million without an admission of guilt in 2006 following collusion complaints in 2002 and 2003.

Verlander was unanimously named the winner of the AL Cy Young on Wednesday. Judge is the heavy favorite to be named AL MVP on Thursday after his 62-home run season. Our RJ Anderson ranked Judge the No. 1 available free agent and Verlander No. 6.

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