Steve Cohen mets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

By now, most of us know the huge numbers the Mets have thrown around this winter when it comes to money. Once Carlos Correa’s $315 million deal becomes official, New York will have committed more than $800 million via free agency. Their current payroll for 2023 is projected to be about $385 million. With the luxury-tax penalty the Mets will incur, owner Steve Cohen will outlay $500 million on player talent this season.

The big question about this has been quite constant on the interwebs. We know what’s happening is amazing for Mets fans and players. But is it good or bad for baseball? The answer to this question varies depending on who you ask.

If you’re asking other MLB team owners, many of them will say it’s bad for baseball. Mostly because it’s bad for how they like to run their business. Is this going to eventually come back and bite Cohen? Some people think so, as reported by Evan Drellich of The Athletic (all quotes sourced from his article unless otherwise noted):

“I think it’s going to have consequences for him down the road,” said an official with another major league team who was not authorized to speak publicly. “There’s no collusion. But … there was a reason nobody for years ever went past $300 million. You still have partners, and there’s a system.”

I can’t be the only one that reads this as, “There’s no collusion, but there might be a little bit of collusion.” For so long, people have taken billionaire owners at their word when they say it’s impossible for them to spend money and acquire on-field talent.

“Our sport feels broken now,” a different rival executive said Wednesday. “We’ve got somebody with three times the median payroll and has no care whatsoever for the long-term of any of these contracts, in terms of the risk associated with any of them. How exactly does this work? I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.”

Sure, the Mets’ payroll is huge, but I wouldn’t say there’s just “no care whatsoever for the long-term of any of these contracts”. Of the contracts New York has handed out this winter, only two have been more than five years: the agreement with Correa and Brandon Nimmo’s eight-year deal. So, I think the Mets actually are thinking about the long-term impact.

And sure, Francisco Lindor is under contract until 2031, but he’ll be 37 at that time. Not 40, like Trea Turner will be at the end of his Phillies contract. Or Xander Bogaerts at the end of his Padres contract.

“If he would have went up to the Cohen tax, a little over, I think he would have been fine,” the club official said of Cohen. “But the fact that he blew past it, it kind of like embarrassed Rob [Manfred] and a lot of people. He went so far beyond it, it rendered the whole CBA — made them look stupid on the CBA negotiation. He flaunted it in their face.”

Is it embarrassing now that many owners don’t really have a leg to stand on with their lack of spending? Probably. Even ESPN’s Buster Olney agrees with that notion:

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner also had some interesting thoughts when speaking about the Mets during Aaron Judge’s Wednesday press conference.

Steinbrenner thinks what’s happening is great for New York City, but also covered for his fellow owners with lower revenue levels (quote via WFAN):

I think it’s something to be looked at. Another thing I said in March, which I truly believe, is that every fan of every team, nobody should have to go into spring training thinking their team has no chance of making the playoffs. That’s just not good for the game. That’s why all the owners have worked on competitive balance the last 10 years, and why I think competitive balance is significantly better than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

I was joking with somebody previously that 10 years ago, you’d always hear me say that you shouldn’t have a $200 million payroll to win a championship. Well, I’ve modified that slightly. So, you shouldn’t have to have a $300 million payroll to win a championship. As most teams don’t. The Astros didn’t.

This is interesting since the Bronx Bombers have also spent at high levels this winter, and the past three winters. And especially since the Yankees’ payroll outlay (salaries plus luxury tax) is over $300 million. They’re apparently not done spending, either.

I do agree with Hal that fans shouldn’t head into Spring Training knowing their team has virtually no chance of seriously competing for a title. But just like some people are whining about a salary cap to control Cohen’s spending, there needs to be a salary floor. Teams like the Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, and Pittsburgh Pirates (among others) shouldn’t currently be on the hook for less than $40 million in 2023.

Say what you want about Cohen and how he made his billions, but he’s been clear about his intention since taking over the Mets. He’s made a commitment to the fans to bring a championship back to Queens, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes. That’s been proven on multiple occasions, and the Correa news is just the latest.

Has he upset others in the MLB ownership fraternity? It sure looks like it, but too bad. Nobody is saying they need to invest $300-plus million every single year, but there can be a little more effort to invest in a competitive roster. Will this change how MLB spending is done moving forward? Probably, and it’s about time. If you’re an MLB owner annoyed about Cohen actually trying to win, then it’s time to sell your team.

Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

Matt Musico is an editor for ESNY. He’s been writing about baseball and the Mets for the past decade. His work has been featured on numberFire, MetsMerized Online, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports.