The New York Baseball Teams Are Spending Big With An Eye On The Brass Ring

On the day that the storied New York Yankees franchise held a press conference to anoint their new team captain, Aaron Judge, and officially announce his nine-year, $360 million contract, the pinstriped headlines had already been squashed by the crosstown Mets and their big-spending owner, Steve Cohen.

The New York Post reported early Wednesday — hours before Judge’s presser — that Cohen and the Mets had agreed to a 12-year, $315 million pact with star shortstop Carlos Correa after his deal with the San Francisco Giants cratered. The Giants’ concerns regarding Correa’s physical examination results were what killed the agreement.

New York PostCarlos Correa agrees to 12-year, $315 million deal with Mets

Just like that, the Mets added another superstar free agent in an offseason full of Cohen jewel acquisitions: Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Diaz, Jose Quintana, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson and now Correa, who will switch to third base as the Mets already have Francisco Lindor at short. The scary thought for any baseball fan who doesn’t root for the Mets? Maybe Cohen isn’t done.

Only two years ago, after he held his first official press conference – via Zoom – following his purchase of the Mets, the hedge fund titan Cohen answered his own question about whether the club under his watch was “going to act like drunken sailors in the marketplace.”

“No,” Cohen said then.

But the Mets owner — who Forbes estimates to be worth $17.5 billion — has done an about face. Cohen, 66, been anything but conservative with his wallet since free agency began this winter. Super agent Scott Boras even referred to the Mets owner as a “goliath” in the sport and nicknamed him “Steve Kong” during Nimmo’s press conference to announce the outfielder’s eight-year, $162 million contract.

Cohen’s zeal to get the big-ticket players is reminiscent of another late New York baseball owner, George Steinbrenner, who seemed to make every winter his own with big signings or trades.

It was Steinbrenner who once said: “Winning is the most important thing in life, after breathing.” And although his son Hal, the current Yankees owner, is a softer, gentler version of the Boss, Hal has tried to emulate his father this winter, especially after he gave Judge a franchise-record deal and told reporters at the slugger’s press conference that more Yankee dollars may be spent.

“All I can tell you is that we’re not done yet,” Steinbrenner said.

While the debates rage as to whether Cohen’s and Hal Steinbrenner’s huge spending is good for baseball, and as Cohen plows right past the $233 competitive balance tax threshold for next season — with a Mets payroll currently sitting in the $380 million neighborhood — New York has already won the baseball headlines and then some.

Mets and Yankees fans may celebrating, but as Cohen said in his 2020 Zoom press conference, he didn’t get into the baseball ownership business for show.

“I’m not in this to be mediocre. That’s just not my thing. I want something great. I know the fans want something great,” said Cohen. “That’s my goal. That’s what I’m gonna do.” Cohen also said that if he wasn’t wearing a World Series ring “in the next three to five years” after buying the team, he “would consider that slightly disappointing.”

What’s not disappointing — at least to Mets fans — is Cohen’s drive to get the best, and most expensive product on the Citi Field diamond, with money no object. There was another impetus to spend after the 2022 season ended, however. What was expected to be a World Series-caliber Mets team turned out to be a bust for Cohen.

Veteran Buck Showalter took the managing reins in 2022, but after leading the division pack for most of the season, the Mets coughed up the title in the final days to the Braves. Showalter then saw his vaunted roster fall to the Padres in the wild-card round. The Yankees were equally disappointing, getting swept by the eventual World Series champion Astros in the ALCS, and on the heels of Judge’s historic season when he broke the American League single-season home run record.

Now both teams have reloaded, and short of a Subway Series reboot, anything less would be a failure.

“I want an exceptional team,” Cohen said in 2020. “I want a team that’s built to be great every year.” He’s living up to his promise.