The carelessness, almost recklessness with which Steve Cohen spends his money underscores his knowledge of his wealth. Whenever a baseball player clashes with his ownership class, players’ officials lash out when the fight is portrayed as “millionaires versus billionaires.” Don’t you see, the union man might say, how many millions are there in a billion?
The answer, of course, is a thousand. 100 million out of a billion. And Cohen, the owner of the New York Mets, is a guy with a net worth of more than tens of billions. Do the math. Of course he can.
If you woke up feeling a little dizzy this morning, you’re not alone. Overnight, while most of the baseball industry was asleep, Cohen was negotiating a staggering 12-year, $315 million contract with free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa. Of course, the deal is pending a medical, which proved to be an epic stumbling block for the team that thought it signed him last week. In a stunning reversal, Correa agreed to a 13-year, $350 million contract with San Francisco, but the Giants canceled Tuesday morning’s press conference, reportedly due to medical concerns.
The nature of these concerns is unclear. But that’s enough to create an opening for the Mets. On the night Correa was supposed to be toasting his new life in the Bay, his representative, Scott Boras, was on the phone with Mets owners. Cohen has paid nearly $500 million for free agency. He feels his team still needs an extra hitter to challenge the Braves and Phillies in the NFC East. If it takes increasing his offseason tag to $806.1 million, paying a premium to put Correa at third base next to shortstop Francisco Lindor, so be it.
“We need one more thing, and this is it,” Cohen told the New York Post’s Jon Heyman.
During his brief tenure with the Mets, the hedge fund manager collected players with the same passion he collects art. He can afford to splurge. Bloomberg estimates his net worth at just under $13 billion. He is considered the wealthiest of all owners in Major League Baseball. That’s what he is.
When the Mets’ season came to an end in October, after winning 101 regular-season games but playing just three playoff games, there was a sense of missed opportunity. The team could be good again in 2023, but it’s going to be hard to get the mojo back. A notable group of contributors — ace Jacob deGrom, star Edwin Dias, popular outfielder Brandon Nimmo, and starters Chris Bassett and Taijuan Walker — Will be a free agent. The general consensus is that it will be a challenge for the Mets to plug all those holes.
This thinking ignores how many millions are in a billion—and also ignores Cohen’s understanding of mathematics.
After sending deGrom to Texas, Cohen started spending money. And he really didn’t stop. In one offseason, the Mets signed the youngest of four available star shortstops (Correa), the most accomplished pitcher on the market (Justin Verlander) and the best receiver (Díaz). Almost as an afterthought, the team signed Nimmo to an eight-year, $162 million contract. As a positive, the Mets spent $75 million on Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga. Oh, and by the way, starter Jose Quintana, receiver Omar Narvaz and backups Adam Ottavino and David Robertson split $65.5 million.
The payout puts the team’s projected luxury-tax payroll total at about $380 million, $90 million above the third tax threshold, the so-called “Cohen tax.” Cohen mocked the tax after it was enshrined in the latest collective bargaining agreement. “It’s better than a bridge named after you,” he said. He’s not kidding – he doesn’t care. And, if that even makes a difference, the simplicity of most of these deals means the Mets will be considered favorites for two-way star Shohei Ohtani next winter.
Even so, the team is struggling to cut salaries. Correa made third baseman Eduardo Escobar expendable. The presence of catcher James McCann is also redundant. General manager Billy Eppler could try to improve his pitching staff by trading infield prospects like Brett Baty and Mark Vientos — something that could be attractive to the White Sox, who have heard offers closer to Liam Hendriks. With Lindor and Correa each signing into the 2030s, the Mets have little need for youngsters on the left side of the infield.
So Eppler will keep busy throughout the holiday season. Over the past two weeks, he has hosted various press conferences, with Nemo, Senga and Wieland all visiting New York. Verlander was asked Tuesday morning why he chose the Mets. His answer was the same reason Correa, who was supposed to play in San Francisco later in the day, is now dedicating the rest of his career to the Mets.
“Steve,” Wieland said.
Cohen has been very direct this winter. The Mets need someone closer. Cohen signed Diaz for a record $100 million. The Mets need to replace DeGrom. Enter Verlander, tying Max Scherzer’s average annual value benchmark to a two-year, $86.7 million contract. Even after spending nearly $5 billion, the Mets still needed another bat. When Correa became available, Cohen didn’t hesitate.
Why doesn’t he? Did you know that one billion equals millions?
Steve Cohen did it.
(Top photo by Carlos Correa: Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images))