raining cashThe 2008 New York Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. They were about to move into their newly renovated ballpark with more luxury suites. The Steinbrenners had money to spend and Yankee fans were eager to get right back into contention. Luckily for them, the stars aligned as the free agent class that winter was topped by three star players who could put the Yankees right back into October baseball.

While the rest of baseball was utterly shocked, Yankee fans celebrated Christmas all winter long as the Yankees committed a whopping $424 million in contracts to snatch up all three of the big off-season prizes. If that seems like a lot of money now, remember that this was 12 years ago.

In desperate need of pitching, the Yankees roped in likely future Hall of Famer CC Sabathia with a 7-year/$161 million deal. At the time, that was a monster contract. To further shore up their rotation, the Yankees also grabbed A.J. Burnett for 5-years/$83 million. However, the biggest contract that off-season went to the switch-hitting, gold-glove first baseman, Mark Teixeira. He signed for a then staggering 8-years/$180 million.

In case anyone reading this doesn’t recall how that investment turned out, the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. Meanwhile, Mets fans were less celebratory upon hearing the Braves outbid us for Derek Lowe and we settled for resigning Oliver Perez to a three-year/$36 million contract. We also signed Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year/$37 million deal.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, or, rather the coin purse is in another borough. Now, at long freakin’ last, the stars have aligned for us. All of our dreams came true as billionaire and lifelong Mets fan Steve Cohen bought the team away from the penny pinching Wilpon family. On top of Cohen’s riches, the Mets also have plenty of wiggle room with contracts coming off the books, including a surprise $20.25 million courtesy of the Robinson Cano PED suspension. And, as luck would have it, many of the top available free agents play our biggest positions of need – starting pitcher, catcher, and center field.

As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, most teams will be hesitant to spend this off-season, as they lost millions in revenue in 2020 with Covid-19 robbing them of earnings from ticket sales, concessions, parking, merchandise, etc. Cohen lost no money last year because he didn’t own a baseball team until right now. Not only is he the richest owner in Major League Baseball, but he may also be the luckiest.

Maybe it’s so ingrained in us from the lean Wilpon years to think, oh, maybe now we can get one of the big free agents – which one should we get? Hence, there have been endless debates on this blog, and anywhere else intelligent Mets fans gather, about whether we should go after the ace pitcher, the All-Star catcher, or the playoff tested centerfielder. Why can we only have one?

We all dream of winning the lottery. If you win the small state jackpot, maybe you pay off your bills and go on an exotic vacation. But, if you win the Powerball jackpot, you take care of everyone you know, buy a giant house and a fancy car, season tickets to the Mets, and still have more left than you know what to do with. Hmm, maybe I should be shopping for a yacht or a private jet or an island! You get the point?

At the top tier of this year’s free agent class are Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, and George Springer, referenced above, as well as two-time batting champ DJ LeMahieu and slugger Marcell Ozuna. These are very good players who would look great in blue and orange, but none of them are generational talents like Mike Trout or Mookie Betts. No one above is going to command a 10-year/$300 million+ contract. Factor in the shortage of competition from so many teams in the red, and the Mets are in the catbird seat to corral three of these guys.

How much would that take? Well, the wildcard is Bauer, who has previously been committed to playing on one-year contracts. Coming off a Cy Young season, might he be convinced to finally commit to one team?  If yes, it could set off a bidding war with all of the California teams seeking starting pitching. If that is the case, Bauer could push toward something in the neighborhood of 7-years/$210 million. Is this mercurial and only recently dominant pitcher really worth that much? MattyMets doesn’t think so, but perhaps some of you do.

As for the other four players, Realmuto and Springer could command something like 5-years/$125 while Lemahieu and Ozuna a bit less at 4-years/$92 million. So, if Cohen, Alderson and our as-yet-to-be-named General Manager want to add arguably the three best available free agents to our roster, it might cost $460 million. That would indeed top the 2008-9 Yankees haul, but then, it’s 12 years later.

Cohen likely doesn’t care nearly as much about sticking it to the Yankees as he does fielding a winner in Queens, but if that is a goal of his, a cheaper way to accomplish that would be to simply outbid the Bronx Bombers for LeMahieu.

It’s hard to fathom, like with the Powerball, but we actually won. Yeah, Mets fans really won!  Let that sink in because now, it’s time to spend, baby. #LFGM

19 comments on “Steve Cohen could top the 2008 Yankees spending spree

  • Metsense

    Steve Cohen wants to win a World Series and make the Mets a powerhouse. This article is spot on in the way the 1% rich think. Money is no object. Matt you laid out to blueprint and Cohen has the desire to build it.
    I agree with you that Bauer is the unknown quantity but he isn’t that outrageous in price. For that price I would take Tanaka and Odorizzi and less years. Ozuna is not needed and use the money for two relief pitchers.
    Stock the team with free agents immediately and then put money the minor leagues for the future to sustain the powerhouse.

  • Thomas M Christensen

    For the past 15 years all we heard the Mets were going to make a big splash deal for quality players whether they be pitchers or fielders or catchers and they wound up with 3rd best of everything . Now this year the talk is the same but with different owner & no GM could it happen again or will we become the winner in the FA market and trades to make this team a winner again ? Being a Met fan since 1962 and former Brooklyn fan ,who I also waited almost 20 years for the Dodgers to win and what did they do ? Moved to LA and that’s when we lost a team for NY National league because the Giants also bailed.as well ! I’d love to see new faces on this team and clear out the losers who are mostly relief pitchers that can’t close out a game but can lose it . Lets hope we get a catcher who can hit and throw ,get a center fielder who can run and hit and a starter that can get past the 5th inning . All we can do for now is hope all the hype we read that says we are going to be the team from N.Y. that will be #1 for a change .

  • MattyMets

    Thomas – great point about getting the third best free agent. This is exactly where the Mets have gone wrong over the years is with all the plan Bs. When they couldn’t get Derek Lowe and settled for Ollie Perez, couldnt get Matt Holliday and settled for Jason Bay, couldn’t get Bonds or Griffey sonwe got Bonilla. That approach never works. If you cant be the Yankees, be the Rays and take a smart, measured approach. We never did that. Always made some desperate move to ahiw we belonged. Like middle class folks who lease expensive cars and default on the payments. Now we can be the Yankees. Now we belong.

  • TexasGusCC

    Matt, I’m with the crowd on signing Springer and Realmuto, but I’m sure teams would like to sign four year deals and Alderson has given out only one deal longer than four years as a Mets GM, and that guy hurt his back and retired.

    As for Bauer, I’m in. I heard the noise how he faced inferior competition to other CY candidates by facing the Tigers, Royals and Pirates, but when seeing how he did against the playoff Chicago teams and Milwaukee, he was actually better against them! In fact, in three games against Milwaukee, he was unhittable! If we can be lenient to his last two months of 2019 after the Indians traded him to the second division Reds and their playhouse ballpark, he has had three straight years of excellent production. Problem is, he won’t want 4/$120, he will want closer to 4/$160. Now, tell me what you do.

    • MattyMets

      Gus, I know I may be alone on here in this opinion, but I wouldn’t even kick the tires on Bauer. A) I don’t think he’s in the same class as deGrom, Scherzer, Verlander and other true aces. B) He’s a jerk

      • Stephen

        When comparing the stats of Bauer to Stroman, where is the difference outside of the 2020 season? How many would jump on the wagon for Stroman in giving the number of dollars being cited for Bauer if Stroman had a better year than normal in the 2021 season?
        Big dollars for many years – in my opinion “drunken sailor”.

      • TexasGusCC

        Matt, I don’t care if he is a jerk or an angel. In fact, is he more of a prick than Stroman who bailed on his team? I could understand the vulnerable players opting out, like Lester who has diabetes, but you really think all the other players that stayed on and played didn’t care for their own health as much as Stroman cared about his own?

        I would take Bauer, but my offer to him would be 2/$70 or 4/$120. If he wants to be a Met as much as he says, let him now prove it. If he shops around, obviously he isn’t as interested and it’s time to move on to Ordozzi, Kluber, Hamels, Tanaka, Walker, et al. It bothers me that I haven’t read a single good thing about Walker’s repertoire, but more that it’s very ordinary and hittable. I’d rather have Peterson if that’s the case.

      • Peter

        I am concerned about Bauer. I’d pass. A riff in the clubhouse can wear down morale.

        Realmuto could be a giant signing —especially if not overworked behind the plate.

        Springer is the second signing.

        It’s going to be fun.

  • Mike W

    Here is my gut. Cohen said 3-5 years. Alderson’s plan is not a one year plan. I think the Yankees and Phillies will overpay to keep LeMahieu and Realmuto. The Mers have a great prospect in Alvarez. That is why I think they go with McCann. I do think they will sign Springer. It makes too much sense. I think Bauer will want too much money over too long of a period. I see the Mets signing Odorizzi and maybe Tanaka. Remember, Alderson will have a plan that goes beyond one year.

    He will probably trade some pieces like Davis to restock the minors.

    And I bet there are a lot if really good players and relief pitchers that will get non-tendered on December 2nd I see the Mets really restocking the bullpen from that group.

    Now that being said, it is what I think will happen vs what i want.

  • Chris F

    Billionaires do not become billionaires by spending recklessly. He and Alderson made it clear that the team will be built the right way. Although the players involved here are all fine quality, don’t bet money that Cohen is gonna get in a bidding war beyond some reasonable up-sell just to FA their way to the top. Only time will tell though.

    • Metsense

      He has a renowned art collection and has overbid the pieces he desires. That is not reckless, it is a fulfillment of his desires.

  • MattyMets

    I would aggressively go after Realmuto and Springer as there are only a small handful of stars at those positions, but I would go the trade route to fill other needs. There are a lot of teams looking to shave payroll and some of them have talented pitchers and hitters with far more reasonable contracts. Take a look at the Twins roster and payroll for just one good example.

  • Rob

    Not think this will be well received but not sold on Bauer. Had great year but he Is no CC. While best pitcher available if he goes back to his previous form and 2020 was a career year was it the right move? The mets have gone out and have gotten ace startes in the past with quantity like johan , viola and saberhagen. I never met the man but based on his reputation how will he react if he gets off to a bad start and press rips him apart? Ala when randy johnson went to the Yankees. I hope they sign him and i am completely wrong but just not super excited about it.

  • MattyMets

    Multiple Cy Young Award winners and future HOFers get $30mm+ like deGrom and prime Scherzer, Verlander, Kershaw. Even the next tier like prime Sale, Grienke, Bumgarner, Lester, Wainwright, et al. Bauer is not in that class. He’s not Pedro or Johan. He had one great short season against weak competiton and he’s a clubhouse distraction with a big ego and crap attitude. Let him be someone else’s disappointment. We can find a better and cheaper option via trade.

    • TexasGusCC

      Trade? Like the BVW way? Instead of signing a free agent you want to give up your better prospects and pay the guy? I thought Cohen said they were going to act like a big market team?

      • Mike W

        Trades can be a great way to get what we need. What you need is leverage in a trade and that leverage are cash starved teams. There are good trades to make. You just have to match up with the teams who are going to cut payroll like Tampa Bay and Milwaukee.

        • TexasGusCC

          Mike, I’d prefer to go the FA route first and keep my talent pool. If the free agents aren’t too interesting but there are teams willing to give a good deal, then certainly it must be measured. But, I would be very hesitant to touch my minors because if the system will be built up it needs to keep its parts.

  • joe conzolo

    Hey matt, lot of good points but i think i would take a flyer on bauer with a wrinkle.
    Lets give him gerrit cole + money but for only 2 years. $75 mil (up to $80 if he balks) for 2 years should stroke his massive ego and he can go back on the market in 2023. This way if he isnt the goods he thinks he is we dont have to suffer with a long term cano type contract. I dont see anyone exceeding that kind of money. The upside is if he is close to 2020 form we have a great shot to make noise with him and dergrom in a playoff series. Cant afford to waste any more of degrom in his prime.

    • MattyMets

      Thanks for the comment, Joe. I agree with you about pushing for shorter term, higher AAV deals or front loaded contracts. No time wants to be hamstrung by a hasbeen making huge money – Pujols, Cabrera, Votto. However, if there is a pitcher in baseball who is worth $40mm, it aint Bauer. Not with his track record and not with his attitude.

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