The numbers speak for themselves: A payroll of $384.7 million for the upcoming season, plus an estimated $111 million in taxes on luxury. And a ridiculous $806.1 million committed in an offseason.
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is not thrifty with his money, and this has drawn the ire of some executives and owners of other MLB teams.
“I think it will have consequences for him down the road,” an official from another MLB team told The Athletic’s Evan Drellich. “There is no collusion. But… there was a reason no one has ever gone over $300 million for years. You still have partners and there is a system.
Despite the flimsy “no collusion” (or for that?) disclaimer, it seems like a thinly veiled threat. And it speaks to how uncomfortable Cohen’s spending spree makes teams that have recently been operating largely similar lanes.
After Cohen swoop in to draw out shortstop Carlos Correa from the gridlocked San Francisco Giants in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Mets owner took a bow to perhaps the wildest offseason by a single club in a long time. It’s unprecedented because that $111 million luxury tax would be more than the total payroll of at least 10 MLB clubs. The $315 million spent to sign Correa is more than the Pittsburgh Pirates have spent on free agents in more than a decade.
While these decisions are undoubtedly praised by Mets players, agents and fans, the other 29 clubs are warning of the effects of Cohen’s money. How do they compete with the power and might of a billionaire 17.5 times? Especially when there isn’t an upper limit to curb his market agreements?
“Our sport looks broken now,” another executive told The Athletic. “We have someone on three times the average payroll and they have no long-term care on any of these contracts, in terms of the risk associated with any of them. How exactly does it work? I’m having a hard time understanding it.
Others believe Cohen’s moves could rile owners of smaller-market teams and perhaps sow division in the elite ranks of commissioner Rob Manfred’s bosses.
“This game is all about partnerships and relationships, and these small markets are going to be really pissed at him,” said a club official. “They’re going to try to shell shit and piss Rob (Manfred) off with him. It’s not like they can do anything to him, but everyone needs help in this game. I don’t think he will get any help.
All this leads to an important milestone four years later: the collective labor agreement will expire after the 2026 season.
Some owners may want an even stricter luxury tax than the one agreed to in the current CBA that ended the lockout this spring, considering Cohen passed the $293 million mark despite the 90% tax on every dollar over the limit. Others might suggest an actual salary cap to limit Cohen’s spending, something the MLB Players Association has successfully resisted.
But those discussions are years away and until then, it appears Cohen will continue to build the Mets however he sees fit and with whatever money he chooses to spend.
“The way he looks at this business is so different from his hedge fund,” a former Cohen employee told The Athletic. “It’s more like how he buys art. And spend whatever it takes on art. That guy has a billion dollars’ worth of art in his house. He gets it because he can.