The Aaron Judge sweepstakes just got a whole lot more interesting with insider Ken Rosenthal reporting the Yankees and Mets are being investigated for possible collusion, which would be an obvious breach of the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Suspicions were raised earlier this month when the Mets’ television partner SNY reported the team had no plans to pursue Judge as a free agent, citing owner Steve Cohen’s relationship with Yankees counterpart Hal Steinbrenner. That would, in theory, suppress Judge’s earning potential, eliminating a team that, if not for Cohen’s loyalty to Steinbrenner (who vouched for him when he was in the process of buying the Mets two years ago), would probably be among the free-agent outfielder’s top suitors.
This unspoken agreement between teams operating in the same market probably happens more often than MLB would care to admit, though it’s not usually this obvious. Collusion whispers aside, Judge, regardless of the Mets’ interest (or lack thereof), is sure to land an enormous, potentially record-setting contract this offseason with the Giants, who have no qualms whatsoever about initiating a bidding war with the Yankees, seen as a legitimate threat to poach the likely American League MVP.
Rosenthal reports the Astros, specifically owner Jim Crane, find themselves in similar hot water after Crane was quoted earlier this week as saying Justin Verlander would be seeking a deal similar to the one Max Scherzer signed with the Mets last offseason (three years, $130 million). Per Rosenthal, the players union, if motivated to file a grievance, would argue Crane’s comments constitute an “information bank,” a tactic frequently employed during MLB’s “collusion era” in the late 80s.
Who knows what, if anything, will come of these allegations, though it’s clear whatever teams negotiate with Judge and Verlander will be under increased scrutiny with MLBPA keeping a close eye out for any signs of perceived impropriety.
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