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Rob Manfred addresses probe into Yankees-Mets Aaron Judge talks

As MLB begins its investigation into whether the two New York owners, Hal Steinbrenner of the Yankees and the Mets’ Steve Cohen, communicated improperly regarding Aaron Judge’s free agency, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday he was “confident” the teams did not violate the new collective bargaining agreement. 

The investigation involves 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.”

It added Cohen and Steinbrenner “enjoy a mutually respectful relationship, and do not expect to upend that with a high-profile bidding war.”

If true, the MLBPA believes it’s 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.”

Aaron Judge celebrates after the Yankees defeat the Guardians in Game 5 of the ALDS on Oct. 18, 2022.
Aaron Judge celebrates after the Yankees defeat the Guardians in Game 5 of the ALDS on Oct. 18, 2022.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

MLB is expected to request phone, text and email records of conversations between Cohen and Steinbrenner, as first reported by The Athletic.

Speaking at the MLB owners’ meetings at the league’s headquarters in midtown, Manfred said the league would pursue the matter.

Asked about the possibility of collusion among the owners less than a year after a new CBA, Manfred said he didn’t believe it happened. 

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred before Game 2 of the World Series in Houston on Oct. 29, 2022.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred before Game 2 of the World Series in Houston on Oct. 29, 2022.
Getty Images

“I was a labor [lawyer] first and labor rule one is you want to make sure when you make an agreement, you live up to the agreement,” Manfred said. “I’m absolutely confident that the clubs behaved in a way that was consistent with the agreement. This was based on [an internet] report.”

He added the league was in the early part of the investigation. 

“We will put ourselves in a position to demonstrate credibly to the MLBPA that this is not an issue,” Manfred said. “I’m sure that’s gonna be the outcome. But obviously we understand the emotion that surrounds that word [collusion] and we’ll proceed accordingly.”

Mets owner Steve Cohen during the team's Old Timers' Day on Aug. 27, 2022.
Mets owner Steve Cohen during the team’s Old Timers’ Day on Aug. 27, 2022.
Corey Sipkin
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner during Paul O'Neill Day on Aug. 21, 2022.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner during Paul O’Neill Day on Aug. 21, 2022.
Jason Szenes

One Yankee official at the meetings said there was no truth to the idea that the two owners spoke about Judge. 

The Mets and Cohen are expected to pursue their own free agents, Jacob deGrom and   Brandon Nimmo. 

Steinbrenner 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.

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