When it comes to reeling in Shohei Ohtani via free agency, the Mets’ chances have always seemed long. With how things have transpired in 2023, those chances look as bleak as they’ve ever been.
And no, it’s not just because they look more like trade-deadline sellers than anything else. That’s part of it, though.
Team owner Steve Cohen put the pedal to the floor this past winter when it came to spending for on-field talent. The result was a payroll in excess of $350 million, an MLB record. This also includes a luxury tax bill that’s higher than several MLB team payrolls. All of this spending is easier to deal with when the team is winning. But when they’re not? It causes pause and reflection before moving forward.
Cohen doesn’t mind spending money to help his team. However, he’s not just going to keep spending and hope the tide turns in New York’s favor. Jon Heyman of the New York Post used part of his Friday notes column to talk about the upcoming Ohtani sweepstakes. Here’s what he had to say about the frontrunners, and where the Mets stand:
Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani hasn’t revealed his intentions, but some see three teams as most likely to vie for baseball’s best player, maybe ever: Dodgers, Giants and the incumbent Angels. (There’s a belief he isn’t all about money and will get the biggest contract ever anyway, and that he wants to win and may prefer the West Coast).
- The Dodgers cleared financial room and are the most consistent winners;
- The Angels intend to try to re-sign him, although they may need to show Ohtani they can make the playoffs;
- The Giants have the $360M left from the Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa pursuits and are in excellent shape financially (and maybe in even better shape with the A’s almost sure to be leaving for Las Vegas).
Mets owner Steve Cohen’s comment that his record payroll and huge losses (estimated at $200M) are “not sustainable” seems to suggest that Ohtani may be a tough fit.
He should get $50M a year plus, which would cost $105M-plus considering the “Steve Cohen” luxury tax is rising to 110 percent from 90 percent.
Once again, dealing with another huge salary and the accompanying luxury tax is easier if the Mets are winning. You’d have to imagine that’d motivate them to “get over the hump” by acquiring baseball’s most dynamic player. But if they continue to flame out and finish without a trip to October, or even a winning record? The roster will clearly need more help than just Ohtani. (It still does even if they turn things around.)
Will the Mets still kick the tires on Ohtani to see if he’s open to playing in New York and what it’d take to make it happen? Well, of course. With Steve Cohen’s Mets, they’re always going to be a legitimate option for every top free agent. But the chances of it happening already looked long. Now with a half-season of disappointing baseball under their belts, those chances look even more remote. That can change, though — crazier things have happened, ya know.