MLB investigating Mets, Yankees over possible improper communication regarding Aaron Judge, per report

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

The MLBPA’s request stems from a Nov. 3 article that cited Mets sources as saying that Steinbrenner and Cohen “have a relationship of mutual respect that cannot be expected to escalate into a high-profile bidding war.” The union is always ready for anything that could be agreed between the clubs to reduce the wages of the players.

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The Athletic also noted that Houston Astros owner Jim Crain made a separate comment about free agent Justin Verlander that could draw attention from the MLBPA. Crain’s recently said Verlander is looking to sign Max Scherzer, meaning a three-year contract with a high salary. The collective agreement strictly prohibits clubs from publicly discussing contract negotiations.

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The trade union has the right to complain about any situation. To win the appeal, the union would need to prove that the market for Judge and/or Verlander is broken, which would be difficult considering he’s one of the most coveted free agents of the offseason. But the union remains sensitive to the threat of owners conspiring to undercut free agents’ salaries, as in the biggest collusion cases in sports more than 30 years ago.

If the union files a grievance about the situation involving the Mets and Yankees, an arbitrator will determine whether a settlement has been reached. The association must separately prove that the referee suffered damages. He will stand for triple compensation.

The MLBPA filed three collusion complaints in the 1980s, in which independent arbitrators ruled that owners colluded to prevent free agent bidding wars. MLB and the MLBPA later agreed to a $280 million settlement. The owners also agreed to pay $12 million in 2006 without admitting guilt, as agreed in 2002 and 2003.

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Verlander was unanimously named the AL Cy Young winner on Wednesday. Judge is the AL MVP favorite on Thursday after his 62-pitch season. Our RJ Anderson picks Judge #1 and Verlander #6.

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