Mets owner Steve Cohen arrived in Port St. Lucie, FL on Sunday to get a first glimpse at his new-look ballclub that prepares for a 2023 season with lofty expectations.
This is Year 3 of the three-to-five-year plan that the 66-year-old put forth in his introductory press conference in 2020, saying he’d “consider that slightly disappointing” if the Mets didn’t have a World Series by that time frame.
“If there was ever one thing I’d like to get back, it’s that one,” Cohen joked on Monday. “There’s nothing wrong with putting out really stretch goals. You may get there, you may not, but it’s important to set goals that are high and try to achieve them.
“If we get there, we get there. If not, we keep trying.”
He certainly hasn’t spared any expenses to field the best possible team to make that World Series win a reality. The Mets spent nearly half-a-billion dollars to upgrade the starting rotation — he followed up the departure of Jacob deGrom by signing Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, and Jose Quintana — beef up the bullpen, and retain key contributors from a 101-win team in 2022 like center fielder Brandon Nimmo and closer Edwin Diaz.
The billionaire’s spending habits have put him under the microscope of other Major League Baseball owners and the league itself. Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported on Sunday that MLB has started an “economic reform committee” after other club owners have voiced some of their displeasure with the Mets acting like the big player on the market among other topics such as Bally regional sports network’s expected filing for bankruptcy.
This came after MLB and the players’ association instituted a new fourth tier to penalize a team that went $60 million or more over the league’s luxury tax threshold, which was at $230 million last year. They nicknamed it the “Steve Cohen tax,” where first-time offenders would have to pay a penalty rate of 80%.
The Mets’ payroll last season was $251 million, forcing them to pay a 32% penalty tax rate.
This season, Cohen has ballooned the Mets’ payroll to an expected $384 million — the highest in MLB history — that has resulted in the collective pearl-clutching of other club owners.
“At the owner’s meeting, I had owners coming up to me saying ‘You’re 100% right, you’re following the rules,’ which I am,” Cohen said on Monday. “They laid down the rules and I’m following them.”