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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio expects answer on Mets' sale to Steve Cohen 'very quickly;' potential MLB vote this week

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks before presenting keys to the city to the 1969 Mets World Series champions at Citi Field on June 29, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Steve Cohen’s pending purchase of the Mets likely won’t be pending much longer.

Major League Baseball's owners could vote as soon as this week to approve Cohen’s $2.475 billion deal to buy the Mets, and — as has been the case for more than a month — Cohen is expected to receive the required 23 of 30 votes.

Power officially would be transferred to Cohen when the sale closes, expected to happen very quickly after the owners’ approval.

Outgoing chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, meanwhile, reflected on his tenure and said his goodbyes to Mets employees during a company-wide video call Monday, sources said. He has regularly held those sorts of debriefing calls this year, though the latest one also had the feel of being the last one.

Among the only issues to resolve between now and then seems to be a procedural one: an OK from New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Monday that "our law department is evaluating" the ownership change.

Nobody involved — Cohen, the Wilpons, MLB, the city — expects that to be an issue, sources said.

"We obviously want to get to a resolution on this very quickly," de Blasio said during a news conference. "The deal is this: Because of the land that Citi Field is on and the stadium belong to the city, the city always has to have a role when there is an ownership change.

"There is a process for doing that. The law department is doing its due diligence right now. I’ll be getting a report from them soon and it’ll just be based on the facts of the research they’ve done and then we’ll speak to that again very quickly."

A report from USA Today last week set off something of a firestorm when it suggested de Blasio might or had the ability to block the sale, but it is not clear that he legally has that power. And, if it is possible, there is no expectation that de Blasio actually will do so.

The Mets’ lease with New York City says the mayor can interfere with the sale of the team to a "prohibited person," which is defined as "any person that has been convicted in a criminal proceeding for a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude."

Cohen, a hedge-fund billionaire who was the top target of an insider-trading investigation, was never charged with a crime. His former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, paid a $1.8 billion fine. Cohen was banned from investing others’ money for two years as a result of a civil suit from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Current Mets ownership has a relationship with de Blasio even beyond running a major business in the city he heads. Several individuals from Sterling Equities — the Wilpon/Katz family business that owns the Mets — including Mets president Saul Katz donated more than $4,000 to de Blasio’s failed presidential campaign on Sept. 19, 2019.

De Blasio ended his run on Sept. 20, 2019.

Why the holdup on MLB’s end? Its vetting of Cohen complete, the league loathes teams making major news during the playoffs, so certainly it would not do so itself. The World Series is scheduled to end Tuesday or Wednesday, which clears the schedule for a vote on Cohen and the Mets.

Then the Mets’ offseason of change will begin in earnest. Cohen announced last month that former general manager Sandy Alderson will rejoin the organization as team president, overseeing all baseball and business operations, further making GM Brodie Van Wagenen’s fate uncertain.

Minor moves. The Mets claimed infielder Robel Garcia off waivers from the Reds. Garcia, 27, hit .208 and slugged .500 in 31 games for the Cubs in 2019, his only major-league action. He was out of baseball from 2014-16 and played in Italy in 2017-18. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Mets designated outfielder Ryan Cordell for assignment.

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