Bock’s Score: Billion Dollar Maybe

James Black/Icon Sportswire

In the nuclear winter created by baseball’s brilliant labor lockout – no free agent signings, no trades, no negotiations, no nothing—the landscape is depressing, unless you happen to be Steve Cohen’s wallet.

If ever anything needed a pause it was the Mets’ owner’s bankroll after he invested a quarter of a billion dollars in four free agents just before the curtain dropped on baseball. That’s billion, with a B.

Cohen proved he wasn’t kidding when he promised to spend bigtime this offseason with a tripleheader of signings – outfielder Starling Marte, infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielder Mark Canha — on Black Friday, the national shopping day. Then he topped that by dropping $130 million for three years on Max Scherzer, the marquee pitcher of the free agent class.

And he still had plenty of money left to sprinkle around until the industry closed for business. When you’re worth $14 billion or so, that’s pocket change.

Scherzer will earn baseball’s richest salary, $43.3 million for each of the next three seasons. Marte, Escobar and Canha, all useful pieces, came in at considerably less fancy figures.

As impressive as the signings were, the Mets also shed three significant players who were not exactly on Cohen’s to-do list. They were part of an old baseball adage – addition by subtraction.

Infielder Javier Baez is off to the Tigers, pitcher Marcus Stroman now works for the Cubs and pitcher Noah Syndergaard surfaced with the Angels.

On the surface, they are serviceable players, Baez a good hitter, Stroman a reliable pitcher and Syndergaard a good No. 2 starter. The problem is they are clubhouse lawyers.

Besides being a strikeout machine – he fanned five times in one game – Baez was at the center of the thumbs-down episode, razzing Mets fans. It was not a smart move.

Stroman caused some friction between teammates and the media because, after all, the media is always at fault when things go badly.

And despite not having pitched for two years, Syndergaard was offended when the Mets only offered him the required $18 million as he entered free agency and failed to show him any love beyond that number.

So that trio is gone along with pitcher Rich Hill, an elderly left-hander who departed for Boston. Still available are outfielder Michael Conforto, who had the misfortune of struggling in his walk year and outfielder Kevin Pillar, part of the thumbs-down episode.

The replacements would seem to be an upgrade, even at the inflated prices Cohen had to pay.

 

 

 

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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