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Reports: Yankees will make Jacoby Ellsbury fight to get the $26 million left on his contract

Jack Baer
Yahoo Sports Contributor
The Yankees are reportedly trying to hang onto part of Jacoby Ellsbury's contract. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Jacoby Ellsbury’s seven-year, $153 million contract didn’t end up working out for the New York Yankees. Now, the team is reportedly trying to mitigate that by simply not paying him the rest of the money it owes him after his release on Wednesday.

The New York Post reported Friday that the Yankees will seek to recoup the $26 million remaining on Ellsbury’s contract — a $21 million salary for 2020 and a $5 million buyout for his 2021 team option — due to the player’s reported use of an outside facility to rehab injuries.

While it was initially reported the Yankees would file a grievance to take back the money, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that the team will instead simply withhold the $26 million from Ellsbury and make him file the grievance.

Signed to the nine-figure megadeal in 2013 after a strong career with the Boston Red Sox, Ellsbury’s time with the Yankees was defined by injury and ineffectiveness. He hasn’t played in a game since the 2017 playoffs, undergoing hip surgery in August 2018 and missing the 2019 season with foot and shoulder issues.

Yankees blame Ellsbury’s treatment from Atlanta clinic

At the center of the Yankees’ attempt to avoid paying Ellsbury the guaranteed money it promised him is Ellsbury’s quiet use of a clinic in Atlanta run by a doctor named Viktor Bouqette, according to the New York Daily News.

The Yankees were reportedly tipped off a few months ago that Ellsbury had been receiving outside treatment from Bouqette’s Progressive Medical Center, and the clinic is now reportedly under investigation by a unit usually used by MLB commissioner Rob Mafred to investigate performance-enhancing drug cases.

The Daily News characterized Bouquette’s experience as a physician as “checkered,” citing a 2011 incident in which he misdiagnosed a 56-year-old woman who later died while undergoing “intravenous chelation therapy.” The Mayo Clinic describes such a treatment as “controversial” and its effectiveness lacking evidence.

Adding to the intrigue is the reported belief that Ellsbury has been getting treatment at the clinic since 2017, which could allow the Yankees to also target the $63 million paid to Ellsbury in the 2017-19 seasons.

Ellsbury will have help fighting the Yankees

Whatever happens, both the MLB Players Association and Scott Boras, Ellsbury’s agent, will likely be aggressive in protecting Ellsbury, an effort the Daily News reports is under way.

Such a fight is not usually seen in MLB, the league of fully guaranteed contracts. Quibbles over payments and outside physicians are usually seen more often in the NFL.

If the Yankees are successful in holding onto the Ellsbury money, it’s one more point of contention in an increasingly ominous labor saga.

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