Mets Cohen Effect Not Effective Yet

Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire

What the Fred is going on in Citi Field.  The Cohen Effect has certainly not taken effect yet.  Doesn’t anyone want to take Steve Cohen’s money?

Actually, some have, but not the names Mets fans have been dreaming about since November.

Oh, sure, the Mets have enjoyed a stellar offseason thus far with some impressive acquisitions, including Trevor May, James McCann, Joey Lucchesi, Aaron Loup, and the trade for Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor.

But last November, when it was announced that billionaire Steve Cohen had purchased the Mets from the perpetually cash-conscious Wilpons, Mets fans dreamed of a 2021 team that would feature J.T. Realmuto behind the plate, DJ LeMahieu at second base, George Springer in centerfield, Trevor Bauer as Ace No. 2 behind Jacob deGrom, Brad Hand in the bullpen, and maybe even Nolan Arenado at third base.

And yet, none of those roster moves happened.  None!

Frankly, even Brodie Van Wagenen could have made the Lindor/Carrasco trade.

Yes. It was a trade, not a free agent signing, and the fact that the Mets were able to keep Lindor happy for this year with a $22 million dollar one-year pre-arbitration deal is something the Wilpons might even have signed off on.  Of course, they might have ordered a couple of big ticket players traded to compensate, but it could have been made.

One by one, each of those dream team players went elsewhere.  And now comes word that Bauer has eschewed the Mets offer – which apparently was a very healthy offer – for greener pastures with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers.  He went Hollywood!

For three years and about $102 million – $40 mil in ’21, $45 mil in ’22, with opt outs each year, the 30-year-old righthander joins an already outstanding staff still basking in the glow of a World Championship.  And the way they’ve structured the deal makes Bauer the highest paid major leaguer for the next two seasons, so we can understand the lure.

In all practicality, it really is just a two-year deal for Bauer.  Think about it.  Do you think a guy with his ego – obviously it was a condition that he held out to become the highest paid player – is going to be satisfied with just a $17 million dollar paycheck in 2023?

No, he’s going to bail, and unless he pitches poorly or breaks a leg or has to undergo a major surgery, either he urges the Dodgers the match or best his $45 mil salary in ’22, or he’s going bye-bye again.

Cohen kind of gave warning during his initial Zoom press conference after buying the team that he “wasn’t going to spend like a drunken sailor.”

Well, sailors, right now, the Mets ship is still in dry dock.

Oh, they’ve spent money, allright, serious cash, an estimated $112 mil thus far for the new kids in town and Marcus Stroman when he accepted the $18.9 million qualifying offer, but not at the level Mets fans envisioned when there’s a billionaire at the helm.

The first sign of fiscal responsibility came from behind the plate.  They talked to Realmuto, but apparently weren’t willing to ante up to his demands, which turned out to be a five-year, $115.5 million dollar deal to return to the Phillies.  This gave Realmuto the highest AAV (average annual value) for a catcher ever ($23.1 mil), which topped Joe Mauer’s record deal of $23 mil per when he signed an eight-year, $184 million deal with the Twins in 2011.

Instead, Mets team President Sandy Alderson turned to free agent backstop James McCann with a four-year, $40.6 million contract, an average of just over $10 mil per season.

While Realmuto is currently considered one of the best catchers in the sport, and some say the best, McCann is a very, very good catcher, a better hitter of late, and certainly much better than Mets catchers in recent years.  Comparing their production and handling of each staff will be something Mets fans might keep their eye on.

When Robinson Cano was suspended for the entire 2021 season due to his use of the PED steroid stanozolol in November, which allowed the Mets to pocket his entire $24 million salary for the season, Mets fans smirked, “Oh, Boy,” now we can go after Yankees star DJ LeMahieu, who just earned his second batting title.

“The Machine” just pinged a .364 average in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, besting the second best AL hitter by over 40 points!

Some members of the media speculated the versatile infielder, who could play first, second, and third, could now command a five-year, $125 million deal.  Boy, were they off-target.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman secured LeMahieu’s services for another five years at just $90 million.  While it is true the 32-year-old batting champ had his heart set on a return to pinstripes, couldn’t the Mets have influenced his decision with an offer of five years at $100 mil?  Maybe $110?

And that would have triggered sending Jeff McNeil to third, who also has the potential to win a batting title someday.  Could have been a fun in-house competition.

The Mets kicked the tires on a LeMahieu deal, but never got aggressive.  Speculation says they had their eyes on other projects, including the possibility of landing Lindor.

Now it’s certainly a boon the Mets acquired Lindor.  He is going to be quite a catalyst this coming season.  But until Alderson and newly retitled GM Zak Scott come together with locking Lindor down with a long-term deal, there’s no guarantee the All-Star shortstop will spend more than one season in Flushing.

Lindor is on track to be a free agent at the end of the season, and he has already stated he has no intention of negotiating during the season.  So if a deal can’t be made by sometime in spring training, Mets fans will be sweating out the year with anxiety.

Speculation says a Lindor deal could run as much as ten years or more – he’s only 27 – and it could cost as much as $300-$350 mil, perhaps even headed towards $400 mil.  And one way or another, that will affect future Mets teams and payroll budgets.  That may have also been a factor when they considered other free agents.

Another Met scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the year and due a big payday is Michael Conforto.  The outfielder, who turns 28 in March, will earn just over $12 mil this year if a full or mostly full season is completed, is “handled” by Super Agent Scott Boras, who usually makes his clients go free agent to at least test the market.  And then he goes for the biggest payday.

It will be good measure for the Mets to depend on Conforto going forward, but not if Boras paints his picture as a combination of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.  A three or four-year deal might be in everyone’s best interests, but many years and astronomical dollars might send the lefthanded slugger away.

Conforto also has stated he wants any negotiations to end by Opening Day, to limit any distractions while games are played.  So stay tuned.

It seemed like a given that Springer would be wearing a Mets uniform when he became a free agent.  His righthanded abilities at the plate and his glove in centerfield were a perfect match for Citi Field.

Mets management agreed.  They made a very strong offer to Springer, approximately five years and $120-$125 mil.  But the Blue Jays wanted him more, for five years and $150 mil.  So Springer flew away.

Hand was another free agent who slipped away.  He led the AL in saves with 16, and a 2.05 ERA for the soon to be renamed Indians last year, so here was another candidate to fatten up a sometimes questionable bullpen into a great bullpen.  But he chose to go down the road to the rival Washington Nationals for a bizarre one-year deal that will eventually earn $10.5 million, because the Nationals guarenteed him the closer’s spot.

Are you ready for this?  Reportedly, the deal with Washington is for only $4 mil this season, and the remaining $6.5 mil will be deferred and paid out over three years commencing in 2022.

What’s Hand’s middle name?  Bonilla?

The Mets couldn’t have topped this deal?  Think about that if Hand is shutting them down for saves in ’21.

And just last week the baseball world was rocked when the Rockies traded Arenado to the Cardinals for five prospects.  The multi-Gold Glove third baseman would have looked good in a Mets uniform, but now he’ll ride out the balance of his mega deal in Clydesdale Country.  He still had $214 mil left on his deal, but the Rockies are sending some $50 mil to St. Louis in the transaction.

Apparently there is a new master plan in Flushing, and frankly, when you’re honest with yourself, you recognize fiscal responsibility must be accommodated.  If you add up all of these crazy deals, and had the Mets signed up Realmuto, Bauer, Springer, Hand and traded for Arenado, they would have contracted over $130 mil for just these five players this year.

No matter what, a team must pay at least 26 players for the season, not five.  With the current luxury tax threshold at $210 mil, it doesn’t leave enough room if you don’t choose to cross that line.

At last check, the Mets payroll was floating around $185-$190 mil.

If new deals show up for Lindor and Conforto soon, then the Cohen Effect will start to take effect.

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