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The Mets Threw Some More Money At Their Problems

New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler during a spring training workout on Feb. 18, 2023 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM via Getty Images

There are any number of ways to look at the New York Mets in 2023, but the one that will linger is how they turned Steve Cohen's dreams of winning a World Series for his father-in-law into three prospects and $110 million in future salaries to two guys who aren't even Mets any more. That, children, is elite level financial planning, with the two main tools being tall buildings and open windows.

In the last several days, Cohen's two splashiest signings as the Mets' owner and the keeper of Comrade Roth's most benighted hallucinations, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, have been turned into de facto Texans—Scherzer as a Ranger and Verlander as an Astro. So eager, in fact, were the Mets to decouple themselves from Cohen's signature acquisitions that they convinced Cohen to pay the pitchers that much money to be ex-Mets in the future.

It's a lesson all owners learn face-first—the splashiest signings usually imply nothing but wet clothes and ruined backyard furniture. Cohen, whose business dealings have occasionally come with a measure of legal and ethical shithousery, just found out the hard way that 40-year-old pitchers do not come with receipts, and unless the three young'uns they got in the Scherzer and Verlander deals, plus the two teenagers they got from Miami for 38-year-old reliever David Robertson last week, are all future Elly De La Cruzes, Cohen learned the expensive lesson that money certainly IS an object after all. In all, they moved six veterans for eight futures and bought the rights to a better farm system.

There is, of course, no greater love than that of a billionaire who needs people to see him burning money, but that stops being such a hoot when the hauling charge to be rid of those fun acquisitions hits nine digits. Cohen, whose early M.O. is as America's answer to the Saudi PIF fund, will have a much harder time convincing himself that Drew Gilbert, Ryan Clifford and Luisangel Acuña were worth the $110 million he will throw at Scherzer and Verlander just to be rid of them. They may bring him to a new realization about how to build a team, but prospects are so much less exact than just negotiating deals by saying, You sure you don't want more? Buying long resumes with humans attached to the paperwork is so much easier and so much less fuss, but only the one time.

Cohen now begins the transition to the next phase of his ownership, the one in which he decides not to be Santa Claus in February and stops fretting about whether his father-in-law gets to ride in a parade before he turns in his paperwork. Max Scherzer already spilled the beans on that, telling The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal that he was told by GM Billy Eppler that the money faucet is being turned off, at least for the time being:

“I talked to Billy,” Scherzer told The Athletic. “I was like, ‘OK, are we reloading for 2024?’ He goes, ‘No, we’re not. Basically our vision now is for 2025-2026, ‘25 at the earliest, more like ‘26. We’re going to be making trades around that.’

“I was like, ‘So the team is not going to be pursuing free agents this offseason or assemble a team that can compete for a World Series next year?’ He said, ‘No, we’re not going to be signing the upper-echelon guys. We’re going to be on the smaller deals within free agency. ‘24 is now looking to be more of a kind of transitory year.'"

The Athletic

He will be slightly less noticeable at owners meetings and much less exploitable by rogue agents roaming the hotel lobby after closing time. He will not, in other words, hand out vicarious thrills to fan reprobates like Comrade Roth just to imagine the looks on their faces. And he will for sure reference this quote from the day of his purchase as the wisdom he has always had but never acted upon with much conviction.

“Are we going to act like drunken sailors in the marketplace? No,” he said back in the day. “I want to be thoughtful. You can spend a lot of money today and then tie up your team in bad contracts for the next five years.”

He's right about that last part, though. He didn't tie his team up in bad contracts—he just paid them off.

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