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Mets should embrace role as MLB’s villain this winter | Op-ed

Steve Cohen Alex Cohen Mets
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen (right) with his wife.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

“I’m willing, for the right deals and right free agents, to go get the players we need. We want to be competitive. We want to win our division and be in the playoffs and get deep into the playoffs. I’ve let Billy and Sandy know: It’s whatever they need.”

That was Mets owner Steve Cohen on Friday explaining his team’s offseason approach as he and team president Sandy Alderson officially introduced Billy Eppler as general manager.

That’s the only suitable way the Mets can go at this offseason because with the $14 billion man at the helm, rebuilding should never be in this franchise’s vocabulary. 

Of course, Cohen’s money alone doesn’t make the Mets immediate World Series contenders. We learned that the hard way last year as one of the most impressive-looking rosters in franchise history — on paper — fell flat on its face.

It also doesn’t make them bonafide favorites for every single big-name free agent, either.

The perception around the organization needs to change and the hope is that Eppler will be able to provide some stability after the first six weeks of the Mets’ offseason was focused on the front office. Even more will come if they can hit on their managerial search. 

Granted, Cohen, Alderson, and Eppler have their exclusive pick of the managerial-market litter as the Mets are the only team who have a vacancy at the skipper spot. That hire should come sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, the Mets’ offseason plan to tweak its roster into a contender should be an easy one: Embrace the role of the heel. 

Before going any further, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t worry about organizational structure and the character of employees. An onslaught of PR nightmares ranging from Jared Porter’s scandal to Zack Scott’s DWI headlined off-field issues that pulled the Mets’ focus away from the clubhouse. 

The Mets need smart baseball minds and admirable, respected contributors, too. 

Then they need to start getting everyone mad.

Cohen revealed that the Mets’ current payroll is at $185 million — roughly $25 million below the competitive balance threshold (CBT). That number shouldn’t matter, considering the Mets are expected to blow past that $210 million unofficial salary cap for the 2022 season, which means they’ll pay a luxury tax on overages. 

This is a team that needs at least one starting pitcher, potentially a right fielder if Michael Conforto leaves, and a third baseman. Marcus Stroman should be a top priority to be re-signed and the Mets have already had conversations with Javier Baez’s representation, too. 

Those two alone will put the Mets over the CBT, so Cohen should just keep the pedal to the medal — which is easy when you’re sitting at a desk spending someone else’s money. 

But Kris Bryant remains a target to potentially play third base or a corner outfield spot. Carlos Correa could also be a pipe dream to create a dream team of an infield alongside Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, and potentially Baez. Throw the bag at Max Scherzer to see if he would really come to New York after almost a decade as an arch-rival with the Washington Nationals, too.

Make the traditionalists in Major League Baseball and those who make a career of bashing the Mets clutch their pearls this winter by playing the game every organization wishes they could: Being the biggest fish on the market.

They already go after them when they’re down. Let’s see if their tune changes if they start winning. 

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