Steve Cohen discusses offseason spending spree

February 20th, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Mets owner Steve Cohen defended his historic offseason spending spree on Monday, calling it a bridge strategy to keep the organization competitive until the farm system can engineer a sustainable pipeline of talent.

“I made a commitment to the fans,” Cohen said at Clover Park, where he is spending a weekend at Mets camp. “It wasn’t a short-term commitment. When I do something, I don’t do it halfway. When I’m in, I’m all in. I don’t accept mediocrity well. And so I have a certain high expectation. If it requires me to invest in this club, I’m going to do it.”

In addition to his roles as owner, chairman and CEO, Cohen said he is currently filling the duties of team president as the club seeks a successor to Sandy Alderson -- a search that could continue into the summer. Alderson is now an advisor to Cohen and no longer acting as president.

In his expanded role, Cohen has begun spending an extra day per week in the Citi Field office suite. He was intimately involved in the club’s nine-figure pursuits of Justin Verlander, Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Díaz and Carlos Correa this winter and expects to remain a key voice in baseball operations for the foreseeable future.

So far, that has meant greenlighting an expenditure of $498.1 million on 10 free agents to increase New York’s payroll to roughly $370 million -- by far the largest in MLB history, which Cohen chalked up in part to inflation affecting the free-agent market. He also defended his spending spree by saying he is operating within league regulations set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified a year ago. That includes paying a projected Competitive Balance Tax bill of close to $100 million on top of the team’s payroll.

“At the Owners’ Meetings, I had owners coming up and they go, ‘You're 100% right. You are following the rules.’ Which I am,” Cohen said. “They laid down the rules, and I’m following them.”

With such a large expense sheet, Cohen acknowledged he is losing money on the team to keep it competitive in the short-term, which he says he is willing to do to satisfy what he calls his “commitment to the fans.”

In New York and Port St. Lucie, Cohen’s spending has made him a celebrity. Fans trail him wearing “Uncle Steve” T-shirts and shouting encouragement, creating part of what Cohen called “an incredible vibe” at Mets camp. He said he enjoys taking selfies with fans and interacting with them.

Ultimately, Cohen added, he intends for this gilded era to be temporary, lasting only until the Mets can build up their farm system enough to remain competitive without paying huge CBT tax bills. But if he must continue spending in the interim, Cohen will do so to improve his odds at achieving a title.

“You know how hard it is to get into the World Series, right?” Cohen said. “The only thing you can do is put yourself in a position where good things can happen; you’ve got to make the playoffs, your team’s got to be healthy, it’s got be rested, it’s got to be raring to go. And then you let the chips fall where they may. And if you keep putting yourself there, one day, we’ll get there.”