Serious drama percolating out of New York, which is going to impact labor relations generally at a time when they ain’t so rosy.
The Yankees signed outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a monster contract some years ago, and, thanks to injuries, he has contributed very little on the field over the course of that deal, including sitting out the last two years. With one more year on the deal at $26 million, the Yankees elected to release Ellsbury last week.
Now they don’t want to pay him that $26 million AND they might be trying to recoup some of what they already paid:
AP Source: Yankees plan to not pay $26 million owed to Jacoby Ellsbury.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) November 22, 2019
The Yankees could be looking to recoup some of the $127M they paid Jacoby Ellsbury https://t.co/csVn8Fkag9
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) November 22, 2019
If you weren’t aware, this kind of thing simply doesn’t happen in MLB. Guaranteed contracts in MLB are a powerful force, and the Players Association does not abide them being messed with in any way whatsoever, even in situations where it kinda seems justified by a player’s conduct.
Here, the Yankees claim Ellsbury sought work-related treatment for his injuries the last two years at a facility in Atlanta without the Yankees’ approval – something that was required in his contract. There’s all kinds of standard language about injuries designed to protect teams, but honestly, it’s almost never enforced like this. It’s also a little hard for me to believe Ellsbury would go to the lengths necessary to completely hide his medical treatment from the Yankees, knowing the shitstorm that could raise, but maybe he did. Even if he did, are we really thinking the Yankees had no idea? For two years? Isn’t it more plausible that they knew he was getting medical services for stuff that was partly “work-related” and partly just general health? I mean, if you had to rehab a foot injury so you could walk around comfortably, is that entirely work-related rehab?
If you read the Post’s piece, you get the sense there’s a lot more going on here behind the scenes, including a rumor about Ellsbury getting performance-enhancing drugs at the Atlanta facility – a rumor that the Players Association may allege came from the Yankees.
Ultimately, the story is pretty huge stuff, because if it goes to a grievance, and the Yankees were to prevail, the nature of guaranteed contracts is chipped away just a little bit. Not unlike the Kris Bryant service time grievance with the Cubs, this Yankees-Ellsbury fight is actually a much wider-reaching case than the individual team and player involved, especially given the current state of CBA negotiations between the league and the players.