PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Entering his third season as owner of the Mets, hedge-fund multibillionaire Steve Cohen has made this his team more than ever.
He is comfortable with losing significant money for the sake of a record payroll and a better chance to win a championship. He is proud of the progress in building organizational infrastructure so it can become a smoother, self-sufficient baseball and business operation. And he is more involved in day-to-day goings-on than in the past after the apparent minimizing of Sandy Alderson.
Alderson, the former general manager who rejoined the Mets as team president when Cohen purchased the team in the fall of 2020, already has moved to an advisory role, Cohen said during a news conference at Clover Park on Monday. The Mets continue to look for a replacement — a process that began in September — but “absolutely” might go all season without one, according to the owner.
“I have high standards,” Cohen said during a 20-minute interview with a group of reporters, his first since June. “I don’t feel like I’m in any rush because the people in management, they’re senior people, they’re very competent at what they do. So it’s gotta be someone that I’m excited about bringing in. Meanwhile, I’m the CEO right now. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. When we find the right person, I’ll hire them.”
He has held the CEO title his whole tenure, but now he is functioning as the de facto president, too, without Alderson as his top liaison. Cohen said he is at Citi Field — instead of his “day job,” as he often calls it — on Thursdays “doing meetings all day with the staff.”
The Mets announced last year that Alderson would stay on as president until a successor was chosen. Cohen was not asked why the plan changed.
With a luxury-tax payroll at an estimated $370 million, the Mets this year are projected to lose an amount of money that Cohen described as “bigger than a breadbox.” He did not disagree with the premise of a question about the deficit being in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
That mode of operation — being fine taking that kind of loss — will not last forever, Cohen hinted. He reiterated a point that general manager Billy Eppler has made repeatedly, that the Mets’ extreme spending on the major-league roster is a “bridge” to an era when the Mets develop their own players and don’t need to buy them as often.
Cohen, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $17.5 billion, declined to specify how long it might take to reach that sustainability. But he described getting there as “a marker of success of my ownership reign.”
“Listen, I have another business. So far, I’m doing pretty well,” he said. “Ultimately the path is to create a sustainable farm system. That’s how we’re going to lower our payroll in a way that doesn’t hurt our success. That’s where we ultimately have to go, at least for me, to consider my ownership a success.
“And I really feel it’s important. You can always supplement with free agents, and right now I’m bridging. But at some point, I think we’ll get to the point that other clubs have gotten to where we can do both.
“Ultimately, I want to develop a farm system and lower our payroll to something more reasonable.”
After an offseason in which the Mets committed nearly a half-billion dollars to players, including retaining Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Diaz and bringing in Justin Verlander and Kodai Senga, Cohen said he was surprised by the costs contracts reached across baseball.
The Mets wound up spending more than they anticipated at the outset of the offseason.
“I did not expect what happened, and I don’t think any of the owners did, either,” Cohen said. “It’s interesting because I had mentioned at [the owners’ meetings] the possibility that inflation might matter, given the inflation we saw in the general economy. All of a sudden, we were looking at prices [for free agents] up 25 to 30%.
“That was a shocker to me, and it changed our plans. We had to think differently. $300 million, which is still a lot of money, didn’t get us like it used to, what we could get. And so, listen, you’ve got to be flexible, you’ve got to be adaptable, and that’s how I do things.”