In case you had any lingering doubts about the Mets going for it again in 2023 after losing out on Jacob deGrom, check Steve Cohen’s bank account.
Cohen’s Mets continued their recent spending spree Thursday night, re-signing the invaluable Brandon Nimmo to an eight-year, $162 million deal and then inking veteran reliever David Robertson to a one-year, $10 million pact.
Those deals followed a winter meetings in which the Mets signed Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86.6 million contract and Jose Quintana to a two-year, $26 million deal, plus acquired lefty reliever Brooks Raley in a trade with the Rays. And those are all in addition to beginning free agency by re-signing Edwin Diaz to a five-year, $102 million contract.
For those book-keeping at home, that’s $386.6 million in free-agent deals just this offseason.
Cohen said earlier this year on “The Show with Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman” podcast that “you should be able to build a pretty good team at $300 million.” Turns out you can build an even better team by zooming past that number, with this week’s haul bringing the 2023 payroll up to about $325 million.
And they probably are not done yet. Whether through free agency or the trade market, they have some more work left in rebuilding the bullpen and possibly adding another bat and a starting pitcher (Kodai Senga remains an intriguing option).
With Cohen, all of that is still in play.
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To be the best, you have to beat the best. The Jets and Giants have a long way to go to be in that position.
For now, they might have to beat the best just to make the playoffs.
Both New York football teams will have a prime chance to do that Sunday, when they face not only the leaders of their divisions but the best teams in their respective conferences. A reminder of the Sunday showdown schedule:
Jets at Bills, 1 p.m., CBS
Eagles at Giants, 1 p.m., FOX
It’s too bad the games are in the same time slot, but clickers will be useful as the Jets and Giants try to knock off a pair of first-place teams in the heart of their playoff races.
Both teams are coming off disappointing games last week — the Jets’ comeback against the Vikings falling short and the Giants squandering a late lead to settle for a tie with the Commanders. This Sunday’s games are not a “must-win” for either team in the technical sense, as neither would be eliminated from postseason contention with a loss.
But a loss for either team certainly would begin to make things hairier over the final four weeks of the season.
For the Jets (7-5), who enter the weekend owning the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC, there is not a ton of breathing room. The Patriots and Chargers are both 6-6, and the Chargers have the easiest schedule of the three of them, according to Tankathon. Justin Herbert and Co. have the Dolphins this weekend before finishing with the Titans, Colts, Rams and Broncos.
The Jets already have pulled off one stunner against the Bills this season, but doing so in Orchard Park on Sunday would give them a whole different kind of shot in the arm with Mike White under center.
The Giants (7-4-1) are in sixth place in the NFC, and only have to worry about the Seahawks (7-5) and Commanders (7-5-1) behind them. But they have not won since Nov. 13 against the Texans, going 0-2-1 since. With a rematch against the Commanders on deck, they could sure use any kind of momentum on their side.
Winter meetings winners & losers
The winter meetings are now over, but not before some seismic changes reverberated across MLB and more than $1.5 billion was handed out in huge contracts — and that doesn’t even include Jacob deGrom’s $185 million from the Rangers on a five-year deal he signed a few days before the industry convened in San Diego.
Now that the dust has settled — and with more action to come, with the likes of Carlos Correa, Carlos Rodon, Chris Bassitt and Andrew Benintendi still unsigned as of Thursday — it’s time to take stock of the winners and losers from a wild four days.
Aaron Judge: The biggest free agent (in more ways than one) on the market landed the monster contract he earned with an historic 2022 season, and got it from the Yankees in the form of $360 million over nine years. Playing the rest of his career in pinstripes should boost his value even higher and go a long way in cementing his legacy, which he would have missed out on had he chosen to go home to the Giants or to take a possible $400 million from the Padres. Not bad for a guy who some called crazy for turning down $213.5 million last spring.
Yankees: For a few hours on Tuesday, it looked as if the Yankees were going to be one of this week’s biggest losers and miss out on Judge to the Giants. But after claiming that they would not let money stand in the way of bringing Judge back, Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman kept their word and upped their offer to get a deal done. It’s a hefty sum, but they had to do it. The alternative would have been much more costly on and off the field.
Xander Bogaerts: Speaking of knowing your worth, Bogaerts held out for more money and got a surprising $280 million over 11 years from the Padres. In spring training, the star shortstop turned down what amounted to a four-year, $90 million extension offer from the Red Sox, The Post’s Jon Heyman previously reported. Then on Wednesday, with the Red Sox offering six years and about $162 million (per the Boston Globe), Bogaerts turned them down for a much bigger haul in San Diego.
NL East: It will make life tougher on the teams, but the top of the division is shaping up to be a juggernaut. After their surprise run to the World Series, the Phillies kept at it by signing shortstop Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million), right-hander Taijuan Walker (four years, $72 million) and lefty reliever Matt Strahm (two years, $15 million). After losing deGrom, the Mets pivoted to sign Verlander (two years, $86.6 million) and Quintana (two years, $26 million), and followed up Thursday with the big Nimmo re-signing. The Braves have been quieter so far, though they bolstered their bullpen Wednesday by acquiring reliever Joe Jimenez from the Tigers.
Carlos Rodon: The left-hander has not signed yet, but what he was projected to get at the start of the offseason (five years and $150 million at best?) has shot up thanks to the money his fellow starting pitchers have received. Verlander and deGrom represented the very top of the market with Rodon right behind them. And behind Rodon, Walker ($18 AAV) and Jameson Taillon ($17 AAV) have done quite well for themselves. A rising tide lifts all ships, meaning Rodon should be in for a big payday.
Carlos Correa: See Rodon, except substitute shortstop for starting pitcher after seeing what Turner and Bogaerts got. Another Scott Boras client, Correa is in line to get every last penny, especially with multiple teams in contention to drive up the price.
Red Sox: It feels as if listing them only once here doesn’t quite do justice to how brutally they handled Bogaerts’ situation — especially because it brings back bad memories for the team’s fanbase of not offering enough to keep other homegrown stars Jon Lester and Mookie Betts in years past. It’s tough to keep fans engaged when the players they came to love end up having to go elsewhere to get paid what they deserve. The Sox did add to their bullpen with Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin and took a $90 million chance on Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida, but they’ll need to do a whole lot more (starting with extending Rafael Devers, their next homegrown star) to win back some support in Boston.
Giants: Instead of bringing Judge home, they finished runner-up — an all-too-familiar feeling for a team that had similar experiences when trying to sign Bryce Harper and Zack Greinke in recent years. It seemed to be set up perfectly this time with Judge growing up a Giants fan two hours away. Instead they’ll have to make a run at Correa to secure a big bat this offseason.
Dodgers: The franchise has made plenty of splashes in recent offseasons, but has sat this one out besides bringing back Clayton Kershaw on a one-year, $20 million deal. They missed out on Verlander while losing Turner, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Anderson, Martin, Tommy Kahnle and Cody Bellinger.
Padres: They did end the winter meetings by adding an important bat to their lineup in Bogaerts. But only after trying to sign Turner and Judge to deals that were reportedly worth more than the ones they ended up signing elsewhere. It made the Bogaerts deal smell of an overpay — and with an 11-year commitment, he’ll be playing the final season at age 40 — even if they’ll be rewarded for it in the short term.
Tyler Anderson: It’s hard to fault a player for signing early, as Anderson did with the Angels for three years and $39 million after turning down the Dodgers’ qualifying offer. But seeing some of the deals his fellow mid-tier starting pitchers got this week, he might be wondering whether he could have held out for more. Walker (four years, $72 million) and Taillon (four years, $68 million) did not have qualifying offers attached to them and are slightly younger, but they got more than expected.
Brittney Griner comes home
After being held in Russian detention for 294 days, Brittney Griner was finally on her way home Thursday after the United States made a prisoner exchange.
The WNBA, NBA, their players and others in sports had been vocal about getting Griner back to the States after she was detained on Feb. 10 (news of her arrest didn’t break until March 5) upon Russian airport customs officials allegedly finding cannabis oil in her luggage.
“It has been a total team effort,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Thursday during a press conference. “We could not have done this without the NBA. We could not have done this without Brittney’s agent, Brittney’s lawyers, the whole ecosystem around women’s sports, women’s basketball, sport in general. She’s a star, one of the greatest players ever to play the game. So I think the efforts of everybody have been helpful. The support has been helpful. The voices have been helpful.”