Aaron Judge’s free agency has everybody in the baseball world watching, but it also reportedly has the Mets and Yankees in the crosshairs of an investigation by Major League Baseball.
MLB is looking into whether the owners of the Mets and Yankees, Steve Cohen and Hal Steinbrenner, communicated improperly about Judge, The Athletic reported late Wednesday night.
The issue stems from a Nov. 3 article by SNY that reported in part that, “Mets sources said that they did not plan to fight the Yankees this offseason for Judge.” That stance originated in April, after Judge turned down the Yankees’ extension offer before Opening Day, but had not changed since then, according to SNY.
The story also reported that Cohen and Steinbrenner “enjoy a mutually respectful relationship, and do not expect to upend that with a high-profile bidding war.”
MLB is now investigating whether that could be a possible violation of the collective bargaining agreement, which states “Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs,” with regard to the dispersal of information on player contracts.
As part of the investigation — which was reportedly prompted by the Players Association asking the Commissioner’s Office to look into the comments attributed to Mets sources in the SNY article — MLB is expected to request phone, text and email records of conversations between Cohen and Steinbrenner, according to The Athletic.
Under Cohen, the Mets had the highest payroll in baseball this season at $287 million, per Spotrac. They already have roughly $184 million in payroll committed for 2023 and are expected to spend big again this offseason, especially with a handful of their own free agents — led by Jacob deGrom and Brandon Nimmo — in line for lucrative deals.
Steinbrenner, meanwhile, insisted this week at the owners’ meetings that money would not be an issue in the Yankees’ attempt to re-sign Judge. The Giants, Judge’s hometown team, are widely seen as the Yankees’ biggest threat for Judge, while the Dodgers also loom.
Judge became a free agent last week, months after he turned down the Yankees’ seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer before Opening Day. The outfielder went on to break the American League record with 62 home runs, putting him in line for a major payday with a contract that is expected to exceed $300 million.