Mets in Position to Splurge, But Should They?


Steve Cohen (above) has ushered in a new era with the Mets, and the team could look to spend in free agency. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Jimmy Sullivan, Sports Editor

A new era is afoot in Queens, and it’s a moment that Mets fans have been eagerly awaiting for many years.

Hedge fund magnate Steve Cohen, the inspiration for Bobby Axelrod’s character on “Billions,” has been approved by MLB owners and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to purchase the Mets for $2.475 billion. The purchase gives the Mets the opportunity to compete for free agents in a way they have not in the past decade or so, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they need to do so right off the bat.

This offseason will be like no other in baseball. Revenues will be pinched perhaps like never before, with teams focusing on their bottom line after having lost a year of fans in the ballpark. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who recently let the Dodgers play a baseball game despite having an inconclusive, and later positive, COVID-19 test, has already said that playing a full season without fans in 2021 isn’t viable, but it remains to be seen to what extent teams are comfortable with putting fans in the ballpark.

Point being, teams won’t be spending very much this offseason. That puts the Mets in an advantageous position to spend, as Cohen is the richest owner in baseball with a higher net worth than the next three richest owners combined. That being said, spending shouldn’t necessarily be a mandate this offseason.

For one thing, the Mets’ most dire need for spending is the front office infrastructure to help the team succeed long-term. Major League Baseball has undergone drastic changes in analytics, but the Mets have been far behind, only recently beefing up their analytics department with the 2018 hire of Adam Guttridge, the team’s assistant general manager of systematic development.

However, the team’s previous owners, the Wilpon family, were no fans of analytics. As of last year, the Mets had the second-smallest analytics department in the sport, which is embarrassing for a team that plays in the largest media market in the country. First and foremost, Cohen should make sure this is remedied, and it seems as though he has this singular focus: He reportedly plans to invest heavily in software and hiring behind the scenes, and one estimate says he could lose up to $400 million in his first two years running the team. Cohen is also expected to enlist Sandy Alderson, the Mets’ former general manager and one of the game’s most respected minds, as the team’s president. Alderson would likely have a general manager and president of baseball operations under him, which would make for a well-staffed front office. 

Last week in this space, my colleague Colin Loughran made the argument that now is the time for the Mets to break the piggy bank and make a big free-agent splash, whether that be in the form of Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto or making a trade for Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor. The argument is a compelling one; the Mets have talent on their roster, and one or two more big moves could put the team in a position to win a World Series. That being said, it’s an argument with which I slightly disagree.

The idea that the Mets must make a big move this offseason could get in the way of putting good infrastructure in place. It seems as though Cohen’s mindset is to make sure the team has a solid front office, and one report has even compared the potential composition of the Mets front office to the “East Coast Dodgers.” On the other hand, a hard-headed attempt to get Realmuto or Bauer without the blessing of the front office could actually backfire on the organization. Former Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane said it best: “The day you say you have to do something, you’re screwed. Because you’re going to make a bad deal. You can always recover from the player you didn’t sign. You may never recover from the player you signed at the wrong price.”

So we’ll see what the Mets do. I’m not against the team going out and spending big money this offseason, but I sincerely hope the processes in doing so are correct. With Alderson in place and Cohen’s money putting the Mets in the conversation for free agents, you have to think the franchise is heading in the right direction. 

That being said, whether or not this offseason is the one where the Mets open their purse may not matter. Our long, national nightmare is over. Steve Cohen is in control.