Last week it was reported that the New York Yankees would attempt to withhold the $26 million they contractually owe Jacoby Ellsbury. The reported reason: the team claims that Ellsbury received unauthorized medical treatment from an Atlanta physician, thereby violating his contract.
Over the weekend Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic spoke to the doctor in question, Viktor Bouquette. Bouquette claims that he never treated Ellsbury for any sports-related injury and that, rather, his practice is a bit more wholistic, focusing on “inflammation in patients by identifying and treating its underlying causes.” Ellsbury was already injured when he began working with Bouquette, he says, and Bouquette’s treatments did not conflict with or impair Ellsbury’s injury rehabilitation.
Rosenthal reports that the Yankees were aware of Bouquette’s involvement back in May and sent him a letter seeking to confirm that Ellsbury was not being treated with any banned substances. Bouquette characterizes it as a condition for their granting permission for the treatment to continue, and says he has be believes the Yankees were both aware of and approved of the treatment. Bouquette says he responded promptly, so confirming. Rosenthal says that the heart of the dispute is whether or not the Yankees did, actually, approve said treatment which he reports commenced at some time in 2017.
In addition to that, there are two important passages in this story which seem to get to the heart of it all:
Some on the players’ side believe the Yankees’ motivation in seeking to recoup Ellsbury’s guaranteed money stems from their failure to insure his contract in 2020 . . .
Viktor Bouquette, the doctor at the center of the dispute between the team and player, says he never treated Ellsbury for a work-related injury – a statement that, if proven true, likely would mean Ellsbury did not violate his contract and baseball’s collective-bargaining agreement.
The Yankees’ big risk is that they said enough to Ellsbury and his doctor that they believed it was all OK and went forward. Ellsbury’s big risk is that the Yankees reserved their rights and never approved his treatment by Bouquette but that he went ahead anyway.
If I had to guess, neither side was willing to wager $26 million over some doctor’s visit and each of them thought that they had some sort of justification for their position, even if hindsight throws it all into a gray area. As such, my guess is that this ends with some sort of settlement.