Steve Cohen on when he decided Mets needed to rebuild and what comes next

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Steve Cohen decided in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline that the odds of a Mets turnaround were too slim to stick with his cast of tradeable assets.

The Mets owner, who has built his $18 billion fortune on probability, realized the time was ripe to refurbish an underwhelming farm system.

“You look at the probabilities, what were we, like 15 percent, and other teams were getting better,” Cohen said Wednesday in the visitors’ dugout at Kauffman Stadium before the Mets’ 4-0 loss to the Royals. “You have to take the odds down from that and if you’re going to have a 12 percent chance of just getting into the playoffs, those are pretty crummy odds. I wouldn’t want to be betting any money on that and I don’t think anybody else would, either.”

What followed was a massive makeover of his record $364 million roster as the Mets exported Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Robertson, Mark Canha, Tommy Pham and Dominic Leone for prospects.

Mets owner Steve Cohen talks to reporters before the Mets' game against the Royals on Wednesday.
Mets owner Steve Cohen talks to reporters before the Mets’ game against the Royals on Wednesday.
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In the process, Cohen absorbed (potentially) $100 million that was still due to those players, all in the name of obtaining a better return. Verlander and Scherzer agreed to waive no-trade clauses to be dealt.

The last of those deals was completed Tuesday ahead of the 6 p.m. trade deadline.

A day later Cohen — who already had planned to be in town for a reunion with his fraternity brothers — saw an opportunity to speak with individual players and took it.

The team owner, as usual wearing his Mets cap, mingled with players in the clubhouse before the game and said he received positive feedback.

“They are people and you just want to check in and see how they are feeling,” Cohen said. “Everyone assured me they are going to play hard and give it their best and that is all you can ask for.”

Cohen, whose team entered Wednesday six games below .500, said he expects the Mets to compete in 2024, but it won’t necessarily be with the most expensive free agents. He cited the amount of dead money the Mets are carrying after dealing Verlander and Scherzer.

“I think the expectations were really high this year and my guess is next year will be a lot lower,” Cohen said. “But I can’t speak to what is going to happen in the offseason. There might be opportunities — I am opportunistic. I don’t want to roll a team out there we are going to be embarrassed by. But we also know that spending a fortune … doesn’t guarantee you a trip to the playoffs.”

Cohen praised general manager Billy Eppler for his work ahead of the trade deadline. But Cohen acknowledged that as the team owner, the final call on all of the Mets’ moves belonged to him. Cohen also praised manager Buck Showalter.

He was asked about any progress in finding a president of baseball operations and if that hiring would determine the fates of Eppler and Showalter.

“As you witnessed at the trade deadline, I think Billy did a phenomenal job,” Cohen said. “Buck is working hard. I have got a three-year contract with Buck and we’re only a little over halfway in, so we’re status quo.”

But Cohen wasn’t about to guarantee Showalter’s return next season.

“I can’t predict the future,” Cohen said. “I couldn’t predict this, if you asked me two months ago we would be in this position we’re in. But Buck has done everything we have asked him to do.”

Buck Showalter
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Cohen seemed to acknowledge the Mets’ best path to success hinges on younger players.

“The reality is the game is changing,” Cohen said. “It’s getting faster, it’s getting younger. You can see the teams that are fun to watch. With the shift [banned], defense matters more, speed matters more on the bases, pitchers are a little bit more gassed with the 15-second clock. The game has changed and we have got to change with it.

“I have always said I want a sustainable process. Making the playoffs is not good enough. That’s not a high enough goal … the idea is to be in the playoffs a lot so you have a shot at winning a World Series. If you get there once or twice, you have got to get lucky. So when I looked at the farm system it still wasn’t where I want it to be. I saw an opportunity to improve the farm system and instill the sustainability I am looking for over the long run.”


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