Mets owner Steve Cohen talks about the fourth tier of the competitive balance tax in the new CBA, the so-called "Cohen Tax," at spring training on Sunday. Credit: Newsday / Tim Healey/Tim Healey

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Seventeen months after buying the Mets, Steve Cohen has what might be a lasting baseball legacy: the Cohen Tax.

That is the unofficial name of a piece of the new labor agreement between MLB and the players’ union, a fourth level of luxury-tax penalties that targets the highest-spending teams.

It targets Cohen, basically.

And he is fine with that.

"I’m OK with it. I’m willing to live with it. And we’ll leave it at that," Cohen, a hedge-fund boss with an estimated net worth of more than $17 billion, said Sunday morning at the Mets’ spring training facility.

"I know there’s a name for it. They call it the Cohen Tax. Whatever. It’s better than a bridge being named after you. It’s still a lot of money to spend on a payroll. I don’t feel like it’s so confining that I can’t live with it.

"No one has an unlimited amount of money to spend . . . We’re going to be careful at this point. After a few moves, I think we’re going to feel like we are where we are. And then at that point, I think we’ll have a team that we’re comfortable with."

Mets manager Buck Showalter and general manager Billy Eppler on Sunday spoke about the state of the team as 2022 spring training begins, with the challenges of getting back into form after a delayed start.

Realistically, the surcharge the Mets would have to pay under this tax is not a significant amount of money in the context of their franchise-record payroll, which is more than $280 million after the weekend additions of starter Chris Bassitt and reliever Adam Ottavino.

The Cohen Tax is an 80% penalty for every dollar a team spends over $290 million, a mark the Mets "probably will" go over this year, according to Cohen. For context, the penalty from $270M to $290M is 62.5%.

"I wouldn’t be surprised [to reach the highest level]," Cohen said. "Hard to say how much."

The Mets’ existing financial commitments, which include a quarter-billion-dollar spending spree in November highlighted by the signing of Max Scherzer, does not preclude them from making additional moves, Cohen said.

Cohen added that he has not shot down any move recommended by his front office over money. And he said he was "heavily involved" in the Bassitt trade discussions, an apparently common dynamic for Cohen.

"He’s very interested to know," general manager Billy Eppler said. "I think he said, ‘I enjoy understanding the marketplace.’ . . . He’s a markets guy, right? To be engaged in that regularly, I think he enjoys it. Seems like it in the conversation."

"He just said, ‘Keep bringing me opportunities.’ So that signaled to me that if it came along, he would be open-minded about it."

Open-mindedness is Eppler’s continued approach to roster-building at this juncture, which he characterized as an unusual mix between the winter meetings and the start of spring training. There has been a rush of signings and trades in the days since the lockout ended and the transaction freeze was lifted.

On paper, the Mets don’t have much more to do to round out their team. They could use a major-league lefthanded reliever, though Eppler mentioned having internal options. They could use a backup outfielder, but they could get by with what they have. And Eppler said he would be "fairly surprised" if the Mets add another big bat.

Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Michael Conforto are among the hitters still available as free agents.

"I want to make sure I stay engaged in the market," Eppler said. "I don’t know. I probably don’t like to say the word ‘done’ is probably the right way to say it. I gotta keep an open mind."

When it comes to the Mets actually getting on the field, Cohen has toned down the championship-in-three-to-five-years bravado from his introduction as Mets owner. He likes this team, he said. But he doesn’t want to make any promises.

"Well, listen, winning a championship — there’s only one team that wins," Cohen said. "A lot of good teams out there. I think we’re going to be really competitive, and who knows? We’ll see what happens."

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