Friday morning, I woke up and it was a reality. The Mets, as of Thursday, have the richest payroll in baseball and think about that because it wasn’t realistic three years ago.
But have no fear because “Uncle Stevie” is here. The Mets owner, Steve Cohen, and his general manager Billy Eppler, as I have said after signing Justin Verlander, were not done. Consider that the Yankees are no longer called the “Evil Empire” despite signing Aaron Judge to a 9-year, $360 million deal.
But the Yankees were in that so-called predicament of assuring that Judge and his chambers would return to the Bronx, if not there would have been a tirade of fan unrest.
However, this is the state of Major League Baseball. The game is healthy and the owners have the money, as witnessed by the combined over a billion-and-a half dollars that went into long term contracts.
Reality is this, Cohen and the Mets are here to stay. They are in this to win now. Last week, a majority of Vegas oddsmakers had the 2023 Mets in that top tier of teams to win the World Series. Friday morning, the Mets are the third favorite, behind the Astros and Dodgers, to win it all.
Different from the Wilpon owned Mets, no comparison because Uncle Stevie is not concerned about a luxury tax. He did not surrender with the exit of Jacob deGrom to Texas. No, this is an owner that means business and is delivering a punch as strong as the one that Buster Douglas threw at Mike Tyson in Japan.
Without deGrom, the Mets are a bit better. But they need another starter, filling the backend of a bullpen, an additional power bat in the lineup to go along with Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte, NL batting champion Jeff McNeil, and Pete Alonso.
But analyze this and the reality of a Mets payroll: $386.7 million that surpassed the Steve Cohen tax with agreements in place to return outfielder Brandon Nimmo (eight years-$162 million), and an agreement with David Robertson (one-year $10 million) as the bridge to closer Edwin Diaz.
Add to the equation and early bargaining chip to re-sign Diaz, now the richest closer in baseball. The Verlander contract, Max Scherzer, Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, and of course Francisco Lindor over $258.5 million in free agency money.
A change in philosophy, of course. This is reality with an owner who is committed to winning a World Series, just like “Uncle Stevie” stated when his journey to Citi Field commenced three years ago, a “three-to five year timetable.”
But this owner is not in denial as baseball moves forward with free agency changing the complexion of teams. The old fashioned trade of sacrificing top tier prospects at least for the moment has gone to a bottomless pit.
And the Mets are not sacrificing their tier of prospects that include number one prospect Francisco Alvarez, who got that cup of coffee in September and a taste of postseason baseball with an opportunity at a roster spot. They did not sacrifice Brett Baty, a possible starter at third base.
Ronny Mauricio, the 20-year old infielder and international free agent remains, though the long term contract of Lindor leaves no room for a roster spot. All good, though, as Maurcio continues his development to the Major League level.
Sources tell me Cohen is not done spending. The mission is almost accomplished. Reportedly the Mets are on verge of adding more to the rotation with Kodai Senga, the sought after starter from Japan that will fill out their starting rotation.
So consider that $40 million or more not going to deGrom worked to the advantage of “Uncle Stevie.” Money off the books worked to his advantage and went beyond the luxury tax limit, staying competitive though, with the NL champion Phillies, a division rival that also opened up their books with the 11-year, $300 million contract to Trea Turner.
As my colleague Howie Karpin, on these pages, outlined about the Mets, “A-Justin-ed to losing Jacob deGrom.”
They did better. And it’s because of “Uncle Stevie.” The owner who wants to win. The Mets’ luxury tax according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post stands now at $58.2 million.
A far cry from those Wilpon owned Mets teams.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening live 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube