Mets owner Steven Cohen not afraid of 'Cohen tax'

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Steven A. Cohen has only owned a Major League Baseball club since October 2020 . In that short time, he dramati...


PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Steven A. Cohen has only owned a Major League Baseball club since October 2020. In that short time, he dramatically changed the trajectory of his team, the Mets, and his spending, the latter of which directly led to a new league payroll tax that bears his nickname.

“Look, I’m still new to baseball,” Cohen said after walking through the Mets’ spring training facility on Sunday morning and stopping to meet with reporters. “I know there’s a name for it. They call it the “Cohen tax” or whatever. »

He later added, “It’s better than a bridge with your name on it or something.”

For so long under former Mets owners, the Wilpons, the team languished in the National League rankings and MLB payroll rankings despite playing in the nation’s largest media market. But in Cohen, the hedge fund manager with a reported net worth of $15 billion, who bought the Mets for $2.4 billion, the team now enjoys MLB’s wealthiest majority owner and his expenses. begin to reflect this reality.

He overhauled the Mets’ once meager analytics department, restored employee salaries to pre-pandemic levels and opened up its checkbook for talented players.

In Cohen’s first season, the Mets traded Cleveland for shortstop Francisco Lindor, then signed it to a 10-year, $341 million contract extension. The team’s 2021 payroll, for luxury tax purposes, was $203 million, according to FanGraphs — just below the first luxury tax threshold of $210 million. That led to a disappointing 77-85 record and a fifth straight season out of the playoffs.

A year later, Cohen set out to transform the Mets and pushed them toward the first $300 million payroll in MLB history.

After hiring Billy Eppler as General Managerand before the start of the MLB lockout on December 2, the Mets committed a combined $124.5 million outfielder Starling Marte, outfielder and first baseman Mark Canha, infielder Eduardo Escobar and star pitcher Max Scherzer. That sent the Mets payroll to $270 million, a league record and a franchise record.

Other MLB club owners have taken notice. The current form of the Competitive Balance Tax began in 2003 and was intended to limit rampant spending. But during negotiations over a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, team owners tried to make the luxury tax system more onerous while players lobbied for the opposite, arguing that its annual growth had not kept pace. the rate of club revenue.

A concession the players finally did to increase luxury tax thresholds in the new deal was the installation of a new fourth threshold at $60 million above base ($230 million in 2022) that could limit top-spending teams , such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Mets. On Saturday, Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo called him “Tax Steve.”

“Look, $290 million is a lot of money to spend overall and I’m okay with that,” Cohen said on Sunday, adding later, “I don’t feel like it’s so confining that I can’t live with it.”

Cohen said the new brand of taxation — each tier has progressively higher surcharges — wouldn’t stop him. When asked if he would top it, he replied, “I probably will.”

On Saturday night, the Mets traded for Oakland Athletics right-handed starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, a 2021 All-Star. (Cohen said he was “heavily involved” in conversations with the Mets front office regarding the deal because executives included him in their talks.) On Sunday afternoon, the Mets reached a one-year, $4 million deal with relief pitcher Adam Ottavino. The team’s new projected salary is $285 million.

“He just said, ‘Keep bringing me opportunities,’ which signaled to me that if it came up, be open-minded about it,” Eppler said Sunday.

Buck Showalter, entering his first season as Mets manager after leading the Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Yankees in the past, said Cohen was curious and focused on the Victoire. “I had owners…” he said before his voice trailed off. “He wants to win.”

Cohen said he was not involved in the union negotiations, but he was happy that a new agreement, which was unanimously approved by the owners, had been reached so that a full regular season of 162 matches can be played.

Only two teams — the San Diego Padres and Dodgers — paid luxury taxes in 2021. Nine of the 30 teams spent $92 million or less on payrolls. According to The Associated Press calculationsthe $4.05 billion spent on major league payrolls in 2021 was the lowest full-season since 2015. MLB’s median salary was $1.15 million, down from to a record $1.65 million in 2015. Before the pandemic, MLB owners ran an estimated $11 billion in annual revenue.

Big payrolls don’t always equate to championships, but when asked if he thought other owners were as determined to try to win by spending, Cohen hesitated.

“I can’t speak for them,” he said. “I’m not on their minds. I can only speak for myself. And I’m very determined to win, very committed to the fans. And that’s what I focus on.

With the new injection of talent and money, the Mets look set to compete for a playoff spot. (As of this season, the playoff field has shrunk from 10 to 12 teams.) The last time they made the playoffs was in 2016, when they lost the Wildcards game. When he took over for the Mets, Cohen said not winning a title in three to five years would be disappointing.

“Everything looks good on paper,” he said of his team on Sunday. “Hard to know what will happen in real life, is not it? I expect a good season. I think we’re going to be really competitive and we’ll see what happens.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Mets owner Steven Cohen not afraid of 'Cohen tax'
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