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Mets owner Steve Cohen talks luxury tax, Jacob deGrom extension, more

New Mets owner Steve Cohen at Citi Field

New Mets owner Steve Cohen at Citi Field for a season-ticket holders event on Dec. 12, 2020.

WASHINGTON — Mets owner Steve Cohen is happy with the way his first-place team has played, is open to surpassing the luxury-tax threshold for big-time additions at the trade deadline and believes now is not "the right moment" to discuss a contract extension with ace Jacob deGrom, he said Sunday.

DeGrom, who leads the majors with a 0.54 ERA and has dealt with a series of minor injuries, is able to opt out of his contract after the 2022 season.

The Mets engaged deGrom and his new agency, VC Sports Group, over the offseason, but it was "pretty casual," according to Cohen.

"I don’t think it’s the right moment. We’re focused on this year," Cohen said. "Obviously it’s something we’re thinking about. Listen, we love Jacob. I don’t think I could pitch to a 0.54 ERA. He’s special."

Cohen’s comments came during an impromptu, wide-ranging media session in front of the Mets’ dugout before their series finale with the Nationals. It was his first interview since early April. He popped down to the nation’s capital for the day to watch the game and chat with players and other team personnel.

Among the issues at the forefront of the Mets’ next six weeks is who they add before the July 30 trade deadline — and how much more money they are willing to take.

The Mets’ payroll at the start of spring training was about $201 million, a source said at the time. The luxury-tax threshold is $210 million. Teams that go over have to pay a marginal tax, but the penalties escalate the more consecutive years a team does so.

Cohen said the Mets have financial flexibility in "the right opportunity."

"It’s something to think about, right?" Cohen said. "Because there’s a price to pay if you go over it, for the following year and the year after.

"We're not going over for a million, two million bucks. That's stupid. If you're going to do it, you're going to do it. We'll see. We’ll see what's available."

In general, Cohen said it is too early to tell how active the Mets will be on the trade market.

"It takes two to tango, right?" he said. "So we just gotta be active in checking around. We have to see what’s available. You don’t know if people are buyers or sellers."

Cohen specifically sought out Marcus Stroman, who is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, and said afterward Stroman is a "good guy" and "pitching great." Stroman has a career-best 2.35 ERA. Cohen didn’t want to get into potential contract stuff, though.

"These are all big decisions. No one has an unlimited amount of money," said Cohen, whose net worth is estimated to be $14 billion. "You’ve got to be disciplined. We'll figure it out when we get there. We don’t have to figure it out now. We'll figure it out at the end of the season."

Cohen said manager Luis Rojas is doing "a fine job," especially considering all the injuries the Mets have dealt with, and acting general manager Zack Scott is doing "a great job — a really nice job."

Focused mostly on his hedge fund, Point72 Asset Management, Cohen estimated he spends 60-90 minutes on the Mets each work day. Most of that energy goes into the business side, leaving the baseball to president Sandy Alderson and Scott, both of whom he said he talks with "all the time."

"I'm not trying to insert myself into areas I don’t know much," Cohen said.

What is the biggest thing he has learned in his first eight months as team owner?

"I knew I would care about every game, but I didn’t realize how much I would care. I'm living and dying on every inning," he said. "That’s calmed down a little over the last month . . . It was bothering me early, but I've gotten over that."

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