Mets' acquisition of Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha puts Steve Cohen's bitter tweet in rearview mirror
Whatever you think of Steve Cohen’s social-media hijinks, which proved explosive this Thanksgiving week, the Mets should be grateful for one indisputable truth.
Money speaks louder than Twitter.
And as long as Cohen is open to spending piles of cash — a pledge that he firmly repeated during the Nov. 19 Zoom intro for new general manager Billy Eppler — the Mets will find people to sign up for duty in Flushing.
Take this Black Friday, for example. Roughly 48 hours after Cohen’s Twitter grenade lobbed at the agent for Steven Matz, a post that accused his rep of double-dealing by spurning the Mets for the Cardinals, Cohen's team wound up in agreement with three free-agent upgrades: Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha.
As conversation-changers go, this was a deft pivot back to the business of improving the baseball team, especially with MLB’s lockout clock loudly ticking down to Wednesday’s midnight deadline.
During Cohen's tenure of 13-plus months in charge of the Mets, too often his club attracted the wrong kind of attention, ranging from its questionable hiring practices to the inability to hire anyone altogether.
The narrative threatening to swallow the Mets in recent months was that of a radioactive franchise, lorded over by a hedge-fund billionaire with an itchy Twitter finger whose inexperience as an owner was flashing a repulsive, neon-orange warning light.
As much as everyone around the Mets — and especially their restless fan base — craved a refocus on baseball, the baseball part seemed as if it kept slipping further away.
That’s what made Friday so critical. While the pickups of Escobar and Canha were solid, versatile upgrades whose situational-hitting prowess will help address the Mets’ biggest 2021 deficiency, securing Marte was the big coup, basically because he was the most coveted centerfielder on the market.
Plenty of teams would love to have Marte, including the one over in the Bronx, but the Mets snagged him with a four-year deal worth $78 million (pending a physical) that probably was a smidge aggressive for a 33-year-old speed player.
The good thing about that? It’s not your money. And the fact that Eppler can put together a shopping list for Cohen without worrying too much about price tags — even with labor uncertainty on the near horizon — is an advantage that outweighs the occasional tone-deaf tweet.
"In my dialogue with Steve and Sandy [Alderson], it’s evident that we’re going to have some resources behind us," Eppler said upon taking the job. "So I don’t think anything eliminates itself at the outset here."
For those keeping a running tab, the Mets’ Black Friday spending spree was a total investment of approximately $125 million (or the equivalent of an LED big screen and a couple of air fryers to Cohen). Broken down by average yearly salary, that quickly bumps up the 2022 payroll to roughly $230 million (with arbitration projections).
That means a lot more than promises when evaluating Cohen’s commitment to improving the Mets, and he apparently is unfazed by whatever new economic parameters are waiting in the next CBA (presumably one will get completed in time to have a 2022 season).
Despite climbing into the rarefied air where only the Yankees and Dodgers have operated in recent years, Cohen isn’t finished, either, with only four full shopping days left before an expected shutdown of the sport.
Next on the agenda is serious pitching help, and that’s going to get pricier than what the Mets just paid out for positional upgrades. Losing Noah Syndergaard to the Angels, who paid him $21 million for a one-year SoCal spa treatment to revive his career, was surprising, but the Mets weren’t going above the $18.4 million qualifying offer to gamble on his still-in-progress comeback from Tommy John surgery.
As for Matz? Being a Long Island publication, we’re always in favor of having the former Ward Melville star in our backyard again. But it seemed as if Matz benefited from a change of scenery with the Blue Jays last season, and given the option of going to St. Louis — he’s called Nashville home for a while now — taking the four-year, $41 million deal from the Cardinals probably was the best-case scenario for him.
If Cohen felt used by Matz’s agent, he had every reason to be ticked off. But that’s the game at this time of year, and his Twitter airing of the grievances wasn’t a great look.
A bitter tweet, however, isn’t going to imperil the Mets’ efforts to put together what they intend to be a playoff team in 2022. Scooping up three quality free agents Friday served as a reaffirmation of that, and Cohen seemed prepared to open his wallet again for a top free-agent arm such as Kevin Gausman (Marcus Stroman went to Twitter himself this past week to express skepticism that he’ll be back with the Mets).
Despite their late start to this offseason, with Eppler getting introduced only a week ago, the Mets caught up in a hurry Friday thanks to a sizable infusion of Cohen’s cash. And while money may not guarantee success, it’s more useful than any tweet 100% of the time.