Like most Mets fans, I grew up hating the Yankees. I was a kid during the Yankees’ dynasty of the late 1990s, enduring “My Entire Team Sucks” chants and other playground ridicule from my peers. I resented the Yankees’ ability to purchase any free agent at will. The Mets, on the other hand, didn’t need to buy their championships to be successful, I said to myself. The Mets were plucky underdogs. They were lovable losers. But the problem is, they were still losers.
Fast forward 25 years or so. A whole generation of fans have reached adulthood with the Mets as plucky underdogs and still no rings to show for it. The Wilpon era was marked by endless discussions of payroll flexibility, as Bobby Bonilla Day became an annual “LOLMets” tradition with other LOLMets moments peppered throughout each season. As Chris McShane already wrote on this very site only eleven days ago, that’s all fundamentally different now in the Steve Cohen era.
But as incredible as it is to be typing these words, things are fundamentally different now than they were even eleven days ago. The Mets’ first offseason under Cohen’s ownership represented a huge shift from the Wilpon era—there is no doubt about that—as evidenced by the acquisition and subsequent extension of Francisco Lindor and the Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar free agent signings. The 2022 Mets ended up with a $268 million payroll, which made them among the top spenders in Major League Baseball, but still behind the Dodgers and certainly not in a tier on their own. It turns out that Steve Cohen’s spending spree sparked in part by being spurned by Steven Matz’s agent was just the beginning.
Within a week of Jacob deGrom’s introduction as a Ranger and Trea Turner’s introduction as an NL East rival once more, the Mets signed Justin Verlander, David Robertson, Brandon Nimmo, José Quintana, Kodai Senga, Omar Narváez, and Adam Ottavino. The team’s payroll rocketed up far beyond the “Cohen tax” threshold and the Mets stood alone with by far the largest payroll in baseball. Steve Cohen was not in the least bit concerned about it. And why should he be? “I made a commitment to the fans,” he said in a recent interview with the New York Post. “If it means I have to spend money to fulfill that commitment, so be it.”
But even until this point, the most expensive contracts Cohen was handing out were, for the most part, short-term ones to veteran players like Scherzer and Verlander. To truly become the “Dodgers East” that Cohen aspired to be, the plan for the Mets was always to also cultivate low-cost, homegrown talent as well for sustainable success.
Cue the events of the past 24 hours. The San Francisco Giants abruptly canceled their press conference introducing Carlos Correa over a vague concern regarding his medicals that is looking more and more like a case of cold feet as the details slowly trickle out. We already knew at this point that the Mets had shown interest in Correa and had made a strong offer to the star shortstop themselves, but no. It couldn’t possibly be. As most of us slept soundly in our beds, dreaming of ways this already strong Mets roster could still perhaps improve on the margins via the acquisition of a fourth outfielder or a middle reliever, Steve Cohen was sipping a martini in Hawaii texting with Scott Boras. And when we woke up, Carlos Correa was a New York Met instead.
So be it.
As dizzying as the adrenaline rush of this offseason has been until this point, the Carlos Correa signing is another level—even for Steve Cohen. Most conversations in Mets circles—even our own AAOP contest—operated under the basic assumption that while it may be a big number, the Mets still had an offseason budget. The Carlos Correa signing sends a loud and definitive message: that assumption was wrong. There are no limits for the Steve Cohen Mets. Anything is possible. The Steve Cohen Mets aren’t “Dodgers East.” They aren’t even the Steinbrenner Yankees either. They are something entirely their own. Whether that something translates to championships remains to be seen. But you cannot say the Mets are not trying their absolute hardest to win. And that is all a fanbase can ask for.
I grew up hating the Yankees. But now I have a small taste of what Yankees fans have always known. It’s utterly surreal. And I’m enjoying the hell out of it.