As millimeters of progress is gained in an attempt to end the MLB lockout, the league and 29 other team owners once again seem to be keeping a wary eye on New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, among others.
In their latest proposal to the players’ union late Tuesday night, MLB increased its proposal on the competitive balance tax (CBT) — which sets an amount of money a team can spend on its roster each year — to $230 million before increasing incrementally to roughly $242 million by 2026. If a team goes over the mark, penalties are administered. It’s unclear just how severe the penalties will be as they still have to be negotiated, but it will likely consist of fines or potentially the docking of draft picks.
The players had dropped their proposal to $238 million from $245 million — increasing to $263 million by 2026 — before negotiations broke down last week, prompting MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to cancel Opening Day and the first two series of the season. Another deadline to cancel the second week of the 2022 campaign was originally set for Tuesday, but progress between the two sides has seen that countdown pushed back.
As a part of the league’s proposal, levels of fines (or surcharges) will be doled out depending on how high over the CBT a team goes.
According to Evan Drellich of The Athletic, the first tier of surcharges would come if a team goes $20 million over the cap — or $250 million by MLB’s new proposal. Level 2 is currently set at $270 million, and a new third tier is at $290 million, meaning a team would have to be $60 million over the CBT to be slapped with such fines.
The Mets currently have an estimated 2022 team payroll of $263 million, per Fangraphs, which would put them well over the mark while flirting with MLB’s second tax tier. But Cohen doesn’t appear to be done spending whenever the lockout is lifted and free agents can begin negotiating with teams again.
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After MLB insider Jon Heyman reported that the team is still looking to add another sizable left-handed bat and starting pitcher, he later added that MLB proposed a fourth tax tier to provide further punishment to even larger spenders. With it, he specifically named the Mets alongside the Los Angeles Dodgers as teams that could be legitimately impacted by it.
Per Heyman, Cohen “is OK with it if MLB thinks it’s for the greater good.”
By those parameters, that means the Mets owner could potentially add at least another $30 million in contracts for the 2022 season alone — this after adding on roughly $71 million onto the 2022 payroll by bringing on Max Scherzer, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Eduardo Escobar.
And if they were to meander into the proposed fourth tax tier set forth by MLB, those potential signings won’t be insignificant ones, either.