MLB launches Aaron Judge-Yankees-Mets probe likely to go nowhere

All the educated speculation about how the Mets are unlikely to poach Aaron Judge from the Yankees has caused alarm bells to go off for the players union.

MLB is now investigating potential collusion by Mets owner Steve Cohen and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, according to The Athletic. The MLBPA called for the probe due to a report published by Mets-owned SNY saying the Mets were unlikely to challenge the Yankees for Judge this winter.

From The Athletic:

Major League Baseball is investigating whether comments attributed to Mets sources about the team’s reluctance to pursue free-agent outfielder Aaron Judge constitute a violation of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.

An article published on the Mets’ television network’s website Nov. 3 said the Mets would not bid against the Yankees for Judge. Details in the story caught the attention of the Players Association, which asked the Commissioner’s Office to investigate whether improper communication occurred between the respective owners of the clubs, according to sources briefed on the situation.

(…)

The league in its investigation is expected to request that Mets owner Steve Cohen and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner provide records of any phone, text and email conversations that took place between them during the period in question.

It is very hard to see this going anywhere. For myriad reasons. The union would need to file a grievance following the investigation. It would then need an arbitrator to rule there was collusion. And then the MLBPA would need to prove the Judge was damaged by whatever happened. Which will be difficult considering he is going to sign a $300-million plus deal somewhere in the next few weeks/months. And will probably be the highest-paid position player in history when he does.

But moreover, this feels like a shot in the dark by the union. Because this is reportedly the passage in the SNY report that it is hanging on:

Talking to Mets people about this all through the year, the team in Queens sees Judge as a Yankee, uniquely tailored to be an icon in their uniform, stadium and branding efforts. Owners Steve Cohen and Hal Steinbrenner enjoy a mutually respectful relationship, and do not expect to end that with a high-profile bidding war.

The only way people involved can see the Mets changing course and pursuing Judge would be if the Yankees somehow declared themselves totally out of the bidding.

It is a rather large leap to infer this means Cohen and Steinbrenner had clandestine discussions about Judge. Or that Cohen and the Mets got word out in an effort to suppress Judge’s market for the Yankees. The latter would make little sense as well. The Mets benefit if the Dodgers or Giants, two direct competitors for the National League pennant, “overspend” on Judge.

Cohen and Steinbrenner likely do have a good relationship. But it is a stretch to say that is why the Mets are not in on Judge. There are better explanations. Among them: The Mets have a rash of their own key free agents to re-sign. Judge is on the wrong side of 30. And if he wants to leave the Yankees, he probably doesn’t just want to move across town.

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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]

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