Exclusive: MLB execs say no collusion in Aaron Judge free agency

MMajor League Baseball (MLB) executives tell TIME the league has ended its investigation into potential collusion between two owners to suppress the free agent market for a superstar Aaron Judge. MLB says it found no collusion in this case.

“We have concluded our investigation,” a top MLB executive told TIME. “And we have advised the MLBPA that there is no basis for any allegation of collusion.”

An MLBPA spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment. The Players Association can still file an appeal; An independent arbitrator will hear this case. To win before an arbitrator, the MLBPA would have to prove that communications between the Yankees and Mets harmed Judge’s free agent market.

An article from early November about SNY.comheadlined “Mets won’t fight Yankees for Aaron Judge,” stated that the New York Mets “see Judge as a Yankee uniquely suited to be an icon in their uniform, stadium and branding efforts.” [Mets owner] Steve Cohen and [Yankees owner] Hal Steinbrenner enjoys a relationship of mutual respect, and don’t expect to change that with a high-profile bidding war.” The piece prompted the MLB Players Association to ask the league to investigate communications between Cohen and Steinbrenner.

Judge captivated sports fans throughout this season with his wildly successful quest to set a new American League home run record — Judge, 30, finished with 62 dingers. Earlier this month, Judge became the biggest catch of the offseason when he filed for free agency. Judge who was named American League MVP on Nov. 17 rejected a $213.5 million contract offer in April, making a bet on himself that almost certainly will pay off handsomely. He won Shohei Ohtani to the Los Angeles Angels for the MVP award, which was no easy feat: Ohtani is a top-five hitter and pitcher in the game, surpassing Babe Ruth as the best dual threat in baseball.

Judge will likely command north of $300 million on the open market. A native of Linden, Calif. — a small town about 75 miles east of San Francisco — who attended Fresno State University, the San Francisco Giants could be an attractive hometown option. Judge arrived in the San Francisco area on Monday. “Visiting family and friends; that’s it,” Judge said in a video when asked what he’s doing in the Bay Area. He winked at the camera.

However, staying with the Yankees comes with great benefits. He can end his career with the most recognizable franchise in sports, in the media capital of the world. Some of the all time great games like Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Derek Jeter excelled in sports knowledge by spending their entire careers in Pinstripes. The Yankees have been to the American League Championship Series four times in Judge’s six seasons, losing each time to the Houston Astros. The Yankees haven’t reached or won a World Series since 2009. The judge probably has unfinished business in the Bronx. But will he be there for the job?

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Write to Sean Gregory c [email protected].

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