On November 3, SNY’s Andy Martino formalized the rumblings fans had been hearing for quite a while, asserting in a column published on the website that Cohen and Hal Steinbrenner had no intention of interrupting their genial relationship with a high-profile bidding war for Judge.
Beyond insisting that the Francisco Lindor contract might be prohibitive, Martino’s main evidence in the matter comes from a year’s worth of conversations with folks in Queens:
"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 upend 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."
Seems innocent enough. After all, outside of the world of jersey swaps and memes meant to agitate Yankee fans, the Mets had never really been a part of the Judge conversation. The Giants and Dodgers lurked; the Mets and Red Sox were included just to get a rise out of easily-agitated members of the Judge’s Chambers. Looking at you, Sonia Sotomayor!
Unfortunately, Martino’s report hinted at something explicitly outlawed in the CBA, and per Ken Rosenthal, it’ll now be MLB’s job to determine whether or not these comments represent tampering — or, at least, a handshake agreement between two behemoths not to touch each others free agents, thereby dictating the market for one another.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge could cost team draft picks, whether he signs or not
What happens now? The Yankees don’t have to cower in fear, but the Players Association has triggered an investigation with their grievance. No resolution will come until after the offseason, though — in order to make a determination in this case, an arbiter will need to assert that Judge’s market was damaged by the report, something no one will be able to conclude until he signs on the dotted line.
The Yankees and Mets aren’t the only teams involved in current MLB investigations, either. When Astros owner Jim Crane, our favorite wily Texan/baseball’s new Jerry Jones, noted this week that Justin Verlander is reportedly seeking Max Scherzer money, that did the exact same thing.
In fact, that type of language is something MLB players just fought to eliminate in last offseason’s CBA talks!
What fun! No wonder Verlander’s response to the contract comments was sort of muddled. He was probably wondering why he wasted an entire lockout arguing for something his rich oil baron-type owner was just going to ignore regardless.
Based on Hal Steinbrenner’s recent comments, he’s had plenty of conversations with Judge lately, and asserted this week that he doesn’t intend to be outbid/won’t stop if he’s able to secure his slugger’s services. Maybe the Mets didn’t need to declare their intentions to stay away after all, considering how motivated Steinbrenner seems to close the deal himself.
That’s for MLB to decide now, though.