Union worried Selig, teams might collude to keep A-Rod's price down

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The baseball players' union is worried commissioner Bud Selig is trying to hold down the price of Alex Rodriguez's next contract and that teams might be sharing information about their free-agent plans.

General managers, in an innovation, each spoke at their annual meeting Tuesday about their offseason goals, and many mentioned what players they were making available. The idea was suggested by this year's co-chairs, Boston's Theo Epstein and Florida's Larry Beinfest, and many GMs said they found it to be useful.

"Over the past few days, press reports coming out of the general managers' meetings relating to the sharing of information between clubs as to their plans regarding players potentially raise serious questions concerning the fairness and integrity of the free-agent market," the union said in a statement Thursday night after the four-day session ended. "Such questions are amplified by reports stating that the commissioner is attempting to influence the market for at least one player."

A person familiar with the union's statement said the player in question was Rodriguez. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the statement didn't refer to A-Rod by name.

Rob Manfred, executive vice president of labor relations in the commissioner's office, denied that there was any improper conduct.

Baseball's labor contract says teams may not act in concert with regard to free agents. Union head Donald Fehr did not specify which reports concerned him but was clearly concerned a team's action might not be based solely on its own determinations.

"Any such activity with respect to free agents is clearly improper," Fehr said in a statement. "We expect to look into the situation and are prepared to take the appropriate action to respond to any collusive behavior and to make sure that the rights of free-agent players under the Basic Agreement are fully protected."

Fehr was traveling Thursday night and could not be reached.

"I am at a loss to understand Mr. Fehr's inflammatory allegations," Manfred said. "In response to an inquiry, the MLBPA was informed early today that there has been no exchange of information among the clubs about players -- free agent or otherwise.

"The union was also told that the press report in question was based on a very general discussion of club 'needs' and 'goals' in the offseason to facilitate trade discussions. Any suggestion that such a discussion violates the Basic Agreement is absurd," Manfred said.

In the 1980s, players won three collusion grievances against management, cases that were settled for $280 million.

Rodriguez opted out of a record $252 million, 10-year contract with the New York Yankees, forfeiting $72 million he was owed during the final three seasons. When the Yankees attempted to get a meeting with A-Rod, agent Scott Boras told them they had to make a $350 million offer if they wished to speak with the third baseman.