Steve Cohen’s deep pockets can handle any Mets risk: Sherman



As a New York sports fan I will understand your concern about, for example, if Zach Wilson is a bust and if Julius Randle an All-Star aberration and whether the Yankees intend to have an actual shortstop play shortstop in 2022. 

You know what we shouldn’t worry about? 

Steve Cohen’s bank account. 

If he’s not fretting about pointing the Mets toward a $300 million payroll, you shouldn’t either. I have always wondered what would happen if one of the extremely rich people who owns a baseball team used their outside wealth to essentially enjoy the heck out of their club regardless of cost. We might be finding out. 

If that pursuit brings Cohen $50 million annually in losses for 20 years, that would be $1 billion — at which point Cohen would still have $13 billion. And I bet Cohen doesn’t believe he is going to bleed cash. He envisions turning the Mets into a behemoth that draws 3 million-plus fans to Citi Field, chases championships and revels in the sound of cha-ching. His ambitions might even outstrip his wealth. 

Which is how the Mets went from not being viewed as contenders for Max Scherzer to on Monday signing the future Hall of Famer for three years at $130 million. The Mets made Scherzer a Godfather offer. How could the hypercompetitive, union devotee refuse setting a contract record for annual value — by more than $7 million? 

Last year when Trevor Bauer spurned the Mets for his preferred Southern California roots, the Mets had the superior offer, but by $3 million spread over three years. This time to pull Scherzer away from a perceived West Coast lean, Cohen authorized an offer that the Dodgers and Angels would not approach. 

Scherzer is receiving $43.3 million per year — $7.3 million more than Gerrit Cole’s previous annual record. He can opt out after two years. 

Is it risky? Of course. Scherzer will turn 40 in the final year of this deal. After pitching four times in 12 days, Scherzer did not make his scheduled NLCS Game 6 start against the Braves. He insisted it was just muscle fatigue, not injury. 

Prior to signing his seven-year, $210 million pact with the Nationals, Scherzer was sold by his agent, Scott Boras, as the rare free-agent ace not overloaded with innings. But during the contract, the righty threw a major league-high 1,297 ²/₃ innings plus another 95 ²/₃ in the postseason. He was a remarkable workhorse. But you are a remarkable workhorse until you aren’t. Justin Verlander won the 2019 AL Cy Young, but ended up needing Tommy John surgery afterward and made just one start under his two-year, $66 million extension that covered his ages 37-38 seasons. Scherzer, who shares so much in style and performance with Verlander, is entering his age-37 season. 

Steve Cohen hopes to reinvigorate the Mets’ fanbase.
Charles Wenzelberg

But there are no risk-free signings. The Mariners reached a five-year, $115 million agreement with Robbie Ray. He won the AL Cy Young this year. The season before he had a 6.62 ERA and led the majors in walks. Scherzer just finished in the Cy Young top five for the eighth time in nine years. There will never be questions about his physical preparation and his hunger for greatness. If he is headstrong and clashes with authority now and then, it is because Scherzer believes he is the best pilot for his career. Who can argue after three Cy Youngs? I would bet on his next three years over Ray’s even if Ray, who can opt out after three seasons, is seven years younger. 

Cohen was willing to financially stake that bet. And it isn’t like this signing turns off the spigot. The Mets began last season with a record $195 million payroll. It projects to $265 million now. There is more to do. Cohen has told Billy Eppler not to worry about cost and do it. 

In his other pursuits, real estate, finance, art, Cohen is willing to bludgeon with money to get what he desires. In a Sportico piece before Cohen finalized a purchase of the Mets, the co-head of contemporary art at the Phillips auction house, Jean-Paul Engelen said of Cohen, “He doesn’t lose. It’s his decision, not somebody else’s. You might have won it, but not because he lost it. He knows what things are worth.” 

Cohen is bringing bludgeoning to baseball. It is how he won the Mets. In some situations, like with executives under contract (think David Stearns), Cohen cannot buy what he wants. But in the free-agent market, he can get to the top of the market — and beyond. He is using cash (lots of it) to keep the Mets relevant while the rest of a broken organization is addressed. 

Already in Scherzer, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte, the free-agent bill is $254.5 million this offseason. The champions of winter often do not validate that in summer (see the 2021 Padres for a recent case). But Cohen is trying to invigorate a fan base and a franchise. He knows what teaming Scherzer and Jacob deGrom in a rotation can mean on the field and at the box office. Again, lots of risk. Neither 30-something ended the 2021 season pitching. But if Cohen is willing to take that risk, the only reason for a Mets fan to worry is if it meant shutting the financial door elsewhere. That does not appear to be the case. 

So if Cohen is not worried about spending a lot of his money on the Mets, we shouldn’t worry either.


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