Mets owner Steve Cohen is having the time of his life -greeting fans like a kid in a candy store and signing James McCann – all in a day’s work.
Newly installed Mets owner Steve Cohen made an unannounced appearance at Citi Field on Saturday, chatting with and greeting fans who came with interest in purchasing one of several Mets season ticket plans.
In what could easily have been cast aside as another one of the Mets photo-op events put together by their Marketing Director (picture Fred and Jeff Wilpon showing up in matching Brooks Brothers three-piece suits), Steve Cohen eagerly mixed with stunned fans, and they with him.
As reported on by MLB.com (short video there too), Cohen noted: “These fans are the best in baseball. Whatever it takes — they’re excited. I was talking to them. They really love the Mets, and you can feel it.”
And we can feel you too, Steve.
Wearing a blue facemask with an orange Mets insignia emblazoned across the front, Cohen stepped up to the passenger side of various cars as they passed by Citi Field.
Okay, Steve, But Where’s The Beef?
However, not to worry because the Mets and Steve Cohen also made their first signing from what Sandy Alderson had termed the “Gourmet Aisle” of this year’s Class Of 2021 Free Agents.
Filling a gaping hole in the catcher’s position, the Mets signed James McCann to a guaranteed four-year $40 million deal.
The Mets’ move adds a solid defensive catcher who is widely hailed as a premier framer of pitches and a unifying force in the clubhouse.
At 31, McCann put together two strong years for the White Sox, beginning in 2018 and culminating in selecting the AL All-Star team in 2019.
Mets: A Warning Shot Over The Bow
The McCann signing is likely to open the door on what has been a dormant free-agent marketplace. Not surprisingly, it was the Mets who struck first, and more moves are likely to follow.
But this is where it gets tricky for the Mets and, more specifically, Steve Cohen.
By now, the entire world of baseball knows that Cohen has a net worth of $14+ billion.
Since the league’s owners spent $4.5 billion on player’s salaries in 2018, in theory, Cohen’s 14,000 million dollars can pay every major league player’s salaries for the next three years or so.
As an illustration, this points to the wariness of Steve Cohen’s entry into the exclusive club of team owners, and the fear of many owners that he would spend like a madman, thereby driving player salaries through a roof that would ultimately fall on them as well.
Before the Mets sale, Cohen’s prevailing opinion put him beyond the range of George Steinbrenner, who once roamed the earth, picking up free-agents at inflated prices like they were toys.
Steve Cohen wants to be a hero, not a villain. He wants to make friends in this new endeavor, not enemies.
Mets: The Risks Of An Open Checkbook
Ironically then, the Mets total payroll is an issue he must deal with. Specifically, this translates to adhering to the threshold limit before the MLB luxury tax kicks in, which for 2021 is $210 million.
After signing McCann—assuming the deal will hit at $10 million AAV—the team’s 26-man at right under $150 million, while their 40-man CB tax payroll would be at about $150.2 million, according to Cot’s Contracts.
This means the Mets have a cushion of about $60 million before they supersede the threshold.
The Mets can get away with being slightly over without drawing venom from some team owners, especially those in smaller markets, but they can’t be seen as spending like “drunken sailors.”
Steve Cohen And The Constraints Of Power And Money
$60 million sounds like a lot of money, but unless the Mets are playing in the kiddie pool, that sum can be eaten up quickly if they continue shopping among the top tier of free-agents and/or high-priced talent acquired via trades.
Additionally, the Mets need to consider the possibility of moves to improve the team at the trade deadline, usually for higher-priced talent that becomes available from teams at or near a lost season.
In dire need of a true major league center fielder, the Mets have their eyes trained on George Springer, who, as a starting point, earned $21 million with the Houston Astros in 2020.
And we’re still not finished deducting from that $60 million. The Mets have a dozen players eligible for arbitration this year, including such notables as Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Dominic Smith, all of whom are expected to receive significant raises from 2020.
Mets: Patience And Restraint Is The Better Part Of Valor
To reiterate, whereas George Steinbrenner seemed to take pleasure in thumbing his nose at his peers, Steve Cohen appears to want to be everything to everyone.
Ironically, he then becomes the poster-boy for a lesson depicting the constraints of money and power. He could slaughter the world of baseball, but he won’t, and in terms of bringing the Mets franchise back to a level of respectability, fans should support Cohen.
The search for a general manager is over, and Jared Porter was hired Sunday as the new GM of the New York Mets. Porter agreed to a four-year contract.
So, that’s another box checked off by Cohen and Alderson as things seem to be picking up a bit.
Porter needs time to acclimate himself to the Mets, but Sandy Alderson’s career experience will more than suffice till then.
Mets fans want more, and they expect more, but the real question seems to be the same one posed to Steve Cohen…
Do the Mets and their fans want to be seen as a replacement for New York baseball’s Evil Empire?