The new owner of the Mets has the initials S.C., and on Friday that resonated like Santa Claus as much as Steve Cohen.
It was hard to tell who was more euphoric, Mets fans or the agent community, that Cohen had cleared the final hurdles to gain ownership of the franchise. Aptly, Mets fans are excited because the agents are. For suddenly, the Mets are viable for every player on the menu.
One veteran agent said, “The Mets are going to play and play big this winter.”
If you ask how the representative knew this when Cohen was supposed to be laying low until final approval, then know there are no secrets in the world. And also this shouldn’t be much of a secret. Cohen walks in as the richest owner in the major leagues — and not by a little. He walks in as a lifelong Mets fan. He walks in with a reputation when it comes to his businesses that winning is the only acceptable option.
Will that translate to running the Mets? Who knows? Plenty of folks have thrown money at problems in sports without success. Plenty of folks have been successful in one arena, but not in owning a team.
But what is certain is the Mets are now heavyweights in every way. J.T. Realmuto and George Springer are in play in free agency. Francisco Lindor in a trade. The Mets will not have to pinch pennies to keep up in front-office personnel or technology. They now become the Steinbrenner Yankees, so their fans can scream about the 50 players they want for 26 spots.
In fact, Cohen should enjoy the honeymoon now and brace for the fraying of goodwill that will begin with the first Realmuto or Springer or Lindor that goes elsewhere. Even for Santa Claus, it is not Christmas every day.
What Mets fans can be satisfied with, though, is that Cohen’s team will not be “monitoring” these situations. That was a favorite term of Wilpon ownership in an attempt to present the public perception they were involved in something when knowing full well the Mets were never going to spend the money necessary to more than monitor the situation.
Cohen had many obstacles to overcome to become Mets owner. None was money. He paid a record $2.4 billion amid a pandemic, and if $2.5 billion would have been necessary, he would have done that.
But there were obstacles because his purchase is imperfect.
In a matter of a few minutes on Friday, the Tigers named A.J. Hinch as manager and MLB’s owners approved the sale of the Mets to Cohen. Thus, a central figure in the biggest on-field scandal in history (the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing) was named a manager again 72 hours after his one-year suspension concluded. And MLB owners approved the man whose hedge fund was responsible for paying the largest fine ($1.8 billion) ever for insider trading.
How much do you check your morality at the door? I would totally understand a stance that neither Hinch nor Cohen should have had their moment Friday.
But I also see what Tigers and Mets fans could see in candidates who passed through whatever vetting processes existed to have those moments Friday.
For a case could be made that nobody was better suited to manage the Tigers than Hinch — experience with massive rebuilding, championship pedigree, player-personnel background and wizardry at handling media.
And if you were drawing up a Mets owner, wouldn’t it be a lifelong fan with the deepest pockets in the game? The kind of guy who would understand what it would mean to the fan base, for example, to be able to steal DJ LeMahieu from the Yankees to play third base if — of all things — the Yankees would not pay what LeMahieu was seeking in free agency?
Thursday that was not possible. Now it is.
Cohen walks in at a time when austerity is going to reign through much of the major league landscape. Owners took a huge revenue hit in 2020 and are projecting more of the same for 2021. Most are going to slash payroll. It is why the agent community is so overjoyed that Cohen showed up with his Mets passion and wallet.
It is not just that he can play on elite free agents. It is that he can play on anything. Consider that the relief market is expected to be extremely depressed this offseason because — among other things — it is flooded with options. But if the Mets, for example, decide Liam Hendricks, Brad Hand and Darren O’Day are the best options to upgrade, then Sandy Alderson will not have to just pick one. These are the new Mets. The Mets can have them all.
And this is an offseason to try to fill holes. Because the market rotates to Cohen’s favor. But also because Cohen — a Mets fan — will know he is augmenting a team that has underachieved the last two years. The Mets have contending talent with Jacob deGrom and a strong positional nucleus. The right moves could quickly elevate the Mets to more than just contenders.
All that matters now is the expertise to decide on the right moves. Of course, that expertise is not easy. But what is gone now is the obstacle of cost.
For when you have Santa Claus on your side, all gifts are available.