Mets owner Steve Cohen was, in fact, serious about his team’s reported interest in Carlos Correa — which leaked just hours before the star shortstop inked a 13-year, $350 million with the San Francisco Giants.
The high-spending owner admitted so to Jon Heyman of the New York Post with the hopes of bringing the 28-year-old to Queens where he would shift to third base and play alongside his friend and Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor. It also would have raised the Mets’ 2023 payroll even higher toward something near $370 million after an unprecedented shopping spree earlier this month which saw $360 million doled out to Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, David Robertson, and Brandon Nimmo.
New York’s 2023 payroll is now estimated at around $345 million, which is the highest for a team in MLB history.
“I made a commitment to the fans,” Cohen said. “If it means I have to spend money to fulfill that commitment, so be it.”
As it stands, there’s no other way to keep the Mets in contention after a 101-win season, which was the second-most in franchise history. A team that had an abundance of holes on the roster opened up in free agency — most notably when Jacob deGrom opted out of his contract and ultimately signed with the Texas Rangers — lacked the organizational depth to supply internal options.
To supplement the loss of deGrom, Cohen is paying Verlander $86 million over two years. After Taijuan Walker signed with the Phillies, Jose Quintana was signed. So was highly-touted Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga, confirming that Chris Bassitt’s time in Queens would come to an end. He eventually signed with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The lack of center-field options on the open market made re-signing Nimmo a necessity, and it certainly showed with an eight-year, $162 million contract.
However, the question ultimately remains whether or not the Mets have made sizable improvements to take that next step toward World Series contention. Cohen doesn’t seem sold, which is why the interest in Correa was there and why they probably aren’t done making moves this winter.
“My team is good. But it isn’t that much better than last year,” Cohen told Heyman. “If you want a team that’s good, this is what it costs. What are you going to do?”
This is at least the way things will be for the Mets for the time being. The farm system is still rather bare considering top prospects Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos are already potentially in the 2023 equation for the Mets.
“There’s a real fight in overcoming something that he inherited and that’s the organizational talent depth has been a problem,” super agent Scott Boras said of Cohen on Thursday. “He knows he has to do more at the major league and free agent level to address that. He’s very clear about it and always trying to make sure that this year’s team is as competitive as it should be understanding that he has to pull in the free-agent area more than he’d like to or more than he’d want to.
“While that is something that probably any owner wouldn’t want to do, he does it because it means if I don’t do it, I won’t be competitive.”