Step right up and greet the next George Steinbrenner!
Steve Cohen may not don the New York Yankee pinstripes, but the 66-year-old hedge fund manager and New York Mets owner is doing his best impersonation of the late, longtime owner of the Bronx Bombers.
After a 101-win season resulted in a swift playoff exit in the National League’s Wild Card round, Cohen is making sure the MLB’s hot stove is sending plenty of heat to Queens, New York with a myriad of key free agent signings that should steer the Mets back into championship consideration and make them heavy favorites across New York sports betting.
According to Spotrac Co-Founder and Editor Michael Ginnitti, the New York Mets rank first in Major League Baseball thus far in free agent spending on major league deals. That is official after Cohen and company added shortstop Carlos Correa on the night of Dec. 21 after the 2017 World Series champion's deal with the San Francisco Giants fell through.
The Mets have now dished out over $800 million on big-league deals thus far, and the Correa coup is a move Steinbrenner himself would have envied.
This morning over at BetMGM Sportsbook NY, the Mets have the second-best odds to win the Fall Classic at +750 (tied with the Yankees) and only behind the Astros at +650. The Mets had been +1000 before the Correa move.
Who Have the Mets Signed Along With Correa?
After losing star pitcher Jacob deGrom to the Texas Rangers, Cohen and the Mets started the offseason by acquiring another veteran right-hander in Justin Verlander, a nine-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner, to a two-year, $86.7 million deal. Verlander is coming off a Cy Young and title with the Astros, and reunited with his former Tigers teammate Max Scherzer in Queens.
The Mets were far from finished in their starting rotation, inking Japanese right-handed pitcher Kodai Senga to a five-year, $75 million contract.
New York also signed left-handed veteran pitcher Jose Quintana to a two-year deal worth $26 million. The Mets will be Quintana’s sixth team since 2020, but he brings a 2.93 ERA to the staff after spending time with the Pirates and Cardinals last season.
While you can't bet on individual awards across NY betting apps, Verlander will be among the favorites for the NL Cy Young, while both Senga and Quintana may be intriguing longshots.
The Mets then bolstered their bullpen by retaining reliever Adam Ottavino, who posted a 2.06 ERA in 66 games last season, with a two-year, $14.5 million deal.
Elsewhere in the bullpen, David Robertson signed a one-year deal worth $10 million after pitching last season for the NL East-rival Phillies. Closer Edwin Diaz, who ignited trumpet enthusiasts throughout Queens last season, re-signed on a five-year, $102 million deal.
The Mets made another big splash in retaining their top talent by re-signing 29-year-old outfielder Brandon Nimmo to an eight-year, $162 million contract. Nimmo, a Met for the last seven seasons, hit .274 last season with 16 homers and a career-high 64 RBI.
ESPN's Jeff Passan tweeted after the Correa news: "Their total payroll projects to be $495 million. The previous max payroll in baseball: less than $350 million. Mets are at almost half a billion."
The Athletic's Marc Carig: "On the eve of the Yankees’ fanfare for bringing back Aaron Judge, Steve Cohen pulls off a heist for Carlos Correa. Has the stove ever been more hot?"
Comparison to “The Boss”
Cohen was named the majority owner of the Mets in September 2020 near the end of the team’s 26-34 campaign that was abbreviated because of COVID-19. New York ended up fourth in the NL East that year.
This is Cohen’s third full offseason and he’s not new to dishing out big bucks to field a winner at Citi Field. Last winter, the Mets spent the third-highest in free agency at $258 million, trailing only the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.
How do Cohen’s spending habits compare to those of George Steinbrenner? Well, Steinbrenner became the New York Yankees’ owner prior to the 1973 season and MLB players did not win the right to become free agents until December 1975.
Steinbrenner actually made the first big splash in free agency one year before free agents were official. Star pitcher Catfish Hunter was made a free agent by an arbitrator after the Oakland A’s failed to live up to his contract. Hunter signed with the Yankees on a five-year deal worth $3.25 million on New Year’s Eve 1974.
After missing the playoffs from 1973-1975, the Yankees won their first American League pennant in 12 years in 1976, before falling in the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. After acquiring most of the team’s talent (like Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa) through trades, Steinbrenner and company made key moves to set up a World Series title in 1977.
The Yankees signed the top free agent in 1976 in Reggie Jackson to a five-year, $3.5 million deal. Steinbrenner also signed pitcher Don Gullett on a six-year deal worth $2 million. Jackson would hit 32 homers and drive in 110 runs while Gullett won 14 games on the mound to help the Yankees win their first World Series since 1962. So that third full free agent offseason is also when "The Boss" put it all together to field a title team.
Steinbrenner would continue to hand out lucrative deals, including a six-year, $2.75 million contract to Goose Gossage, who was an All-Star for the 1978 World Series Champion Yankees and the American League Champion Yankees of 1981.
Pitcher Tommy John, the namesake of the UCL surgery, signed a four-year deal worth $1.4 million with the Yankees in 1979. Slugger Dave Winfield received a 10-year deal from Steinbrenner in 1981 worth $23 million.
In present day, Cohen has quickly made the Mets one of baseball’s biggest offseason spenders in back-to-back years. He’s well on his way to Steinbrenner-esque investment numbers.
In the 1980s, during Steinbrenner’s first full decade as the Yankees’ owner, the team’s combined payroll was $137.8 million, which was the most in baseball by over $20 million, according to a New York Times article from Jan. 7, 1990.
Cohen, like The Boss, is now redefining what "big spending" means across MLB, and other team owners will be forced to keep up should they want to stay competitive on the diamond.
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