Report: Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury Involved in Contract Dispute

Happier days.

Well, I can’t say I saw this coming. I think we all expected the Jacoby Ellsbury era to end with a whimper after the Yankees cut him several days ago, but that was not to be. We’re going to be hearing a lot more about Ellsbury in the coming weeks. That’s about the only thing we know for sure right now.

Anyway, according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees do not plan to pay Jacoby for 2020:

This builds off a New York Post report I mentioned in today’s mailbag. George King reported that the team was filing a grievance over the remaining sum owed to Ellsbury ($26 million). Evidently, he violated the terms of his deal by rehabbing at an off-site facility.

A new report from the New York Daily News reveals that the Yankees were “were tipped off that Ellsbury had been receiving treatment at the Progressive Medical Center in Atlanta, headed up by a controversial physician named Viktor Bouquette.” The paper goes into some detail about those controversies. Complicating the story: there seems to be a PED element as well, and MLB is investigating.

This is all very interesting, to say the least. A few immediate thoughts:

1) While I initially found it interesting that this news came right after we learned Ellsbury’s contract is not insured for 2020, that link is now tenuous at best. Per the NYDN, the Yankees learned about this a few months ago and alerted MLB, which then took action. Nothing to do with insurance aside from timing.

2) This is a very aggressive tactic by the Yankees. I mean, outright refusing to pay Ellsbury to spur action from him and his camp (Scott Boras is his agent) certainly feels much different than simply filing a grievance over a contract violation. I’m not really sure why, but the optics are different.

3) It seems like the Yankees want to recoup money dating back to 2017, which will come close to $70 million in total, a significant amount of money. That’s when Ellsbury started seeing the controversial doctor for rehab. This could get very ugly very fast.

4) NBC’s Craig Calcaterra has a healthy dose of skepticism for the circumstances. He notes that information about the doctor’s controversial past is vague and seemingly disconnected from the Ellsbury case. I think his perspective is fair, and I agree with it. There’s more to this than meets the eye. I can only assume we’ll learn more soon.

5) We really, really don’t have a lot of information here. The Yankees may very well have a clear-cut case against Ellsbury. They very well might be relying on vague, confusing contract language here. Ellsbury might have a legitimate case, too. At this point, we really don’t know. It’s easy to rush to judgement in these situations based on your preconceived notions. It is important not to do so.

6) Now, with that said, I’m having a hard time divorcing this from the broader climate throughout the league. Tensions are very high right now between the MLB Player’s Association and ownership. Players are angry about the state of free agency and have been vocal about it. Moreover, Calcaterra reported the other day that Manfred is already drawing a hard line in the sand with the MLBPA, saying that there will be no economic concessions for labor peace. He then added on Twitter that folks he’d spoken to “took that as a signal” that the league would “seek the elimination of guaranteed contracts.” Now, just a few days later, we get this news about a team trying to contest money guaranteed to Ellsbury. We don’t have nearly enough information to reach any conclusions at all, but it’s easy to be skeptical here.

7) Finally, zooming back in to the Yankees specifically, this entire Ellsbury situation has been so weird for years now. His injuries were very vague. It was always weird when it was reported that he was working out off-site. This is a saga that needs a real, in-depth reported piece. Unfortunately, I still think we’re years away from that. There is a ton of gray area to all of this, and there’s a lot–and I mean A LOT–that we don’t know.


Anyway, as I said, there is a lot more to come. The Yankees may very well have an iron-clad case here. I mean, they’re certainly acting like it. It’s also worth remembering that we don’t yet have Ellsbury and Boras’ perspective yet, which will only further muddy these waters. As always, we’ll keep you posted as things develop.

Buckle up, folks. This is going to be a wild ride.

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14 Comments

  1. Calcaterra’s reports might as well be press releases for the union. Take them with a grain of salt.

    The fact of the matter is that we have little information to go on here. Clearly there is going to be litigation – so we will learn a lot more over time. Right now there really is no way to form an opinion on what Ellsbury did and whether the Yankees are justified.

    What’s interesting to me is that MLB is involved and investigating. It almost seems a bit like how the Yankees benefitted when MLB went after A-Rod. One sort of got the feeling that MLB’s punishment, which went beyond the framework anticipated by the CBA for a first time offender, was enhanced because A-Rod’s absence at the tail end of his career was a benefit to the Steinbrenners. Chances are he would have gotten the standard first time offender penalty if he was actually a good player at the time. Keep in mind the Commissioner ultimately works for the owners.

    If MLB is sending the cavalry out to investigate Ellsbury there might be some legs to this. More than just a shakedown to get him to give up a couple million.

    If part of Ellsbury’s salary is voided for 2020 do the Yankees get a luxury tax benefit? Hopefully lol.

  2. Jim

    Yanks may have started this, But you can bet the insurance companies have their eyebrows raised as well. They stand to recoup a reported $32m in this case.

    • RetroRob

      It’s quite possible the insurance companies might have even brought this forward.

      We don’t have much information, but the MLBPA will not let this pass easily and announced an investigation into the Yankees practices toward Ellsbury. I doubt the Yankees get anything out of this.

  3. RetroRob

    Bad move on the Yankees part based on what we know (not much). Even if Ellsbury went to another doctor in an effort to get back on the field faster then how is that bad? The takes on Ellsbury are humorous and sad at the same time. Yesterday, t was he didn’t care enough to play! Oh, wait, now we hear that he did care enough to play, but he was going to the “wrong” doctor, one who might be “shady” and associated with PEDs. Did he fail a PED test? No.

    This smells of Randy Levine. Other players and free agents will not look kindly on this move. I doubt Scott Boras, who is getting a commission on Ellsbury’s deal, will be all too happy about this either. Good luck negotiating with him on a contract with Cole or Strasburg.

    This will also not free up any money. This would be litigated for years. Maybe the Yankees are hoping Ellsbury will settle and take a reduced 2020 salary. Won’t be happening.

  4. Ah, Internet clickbait. Let’s all dive in.

  5. Dani

    Now the real question: could this free up a significant amount of money? Getting Ellsbury off the payroll would make a Gerrit Cole signing a lot more realistic.

    • DJ Lemeddardhieu

      Doubt it. Hal will just pocket the money and say we’re already spending plenty. Make no mistake about it, this lawsuit is only so Hal can buy that 2nd vacation home. How much did he save from the tax cut legislation and how much of that got invested in increased payroll? Zero.

  6. markbraff

    Two thoughts:
    1. I wonder if this will cause a rift between the Yankees and Scott Boras. I’m guessing not, since he wants to get the best deal for his clients. But something to think about.
    2. I guess Ellsbury won’t be on the Old Timer’s Day guest list anytime soon.Oh well, he probably would have pulled a hamstring anyway.

  7. bardos

    Oh, and if MLB finds for the Yankees, erase 21 million from the luxury tax… I guess that’s the plan of how to get Cole

  8. Dan A

    I agree the optics are bad. But if he violated the contract (or the CBA), I have no problem with the Yanks doing this. I doubt we’ll recoup money already paid though. My guess is that’s mostly just a tactic to force a settlement over money due for next year.

    • RetroRob

      Dan A, the issue would be tying the two together. Player contracts and the CBA don’t spell out any penalty for this situation, if it’s even true. There is also no precedent here that I’m aware of. In the end, Ellsbury will get his money.

  9. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    Of course Hal would try to get out of a contract that he signed, Bobby. They owe him the money, period. They signed the dumbest contract in the history of history and that’s on them. This deal should be brought up every time I see Hal complain about budgets and money. They could have said something back then about reigning in spending but they were silent! We’re better than this! If Ellsbury was taking ped’s they didn’t help any and that might be his best defense.

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