Steve Cohen is a rabid fan of baseball and the Mets, and we know beyond a doubt that he already has opinions on the team. But we have also learned that he is not nearly ready to share them with a nosy reporter.
Because of Cohen’s silence during this sale process, we are left to report around him in trying to figure out what he’ll do if the other 29 owners vote to approve his purchase of the team.
But you want answers now, right? We understand. This is important.
We’ve spent weeks in conversation with people who have spoken to Cohen and/or have a feel for his thinking, and have been able to glean a few educated guesses. We’ll continue to pass more along as it comes to us in the days and weeks ahead.
Will Cohen spend aggressively this winter?
One executive who knows Cohen well has the impression that he will spend to win, but in a targeted, strategic way. He will not chase every big-name free agent.
Remember the 2011-12 offseason, when the Miami Marlins spent $191 million on Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle, and nearly signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson (a strategy that bombed, by the way)? Don’t expect anything like that from Cohen.
People who know Cohen believe that his spending will be surgical, and that he is a smart enough baseball fan to understand that there are better ways to build a sustainable winner. The Dodgers, say, have invested piles of money in research and development. Look for improvements in the Mets organization that go beyond chasing the shiniest object on the free agent market.
Cohen’s money does allow the team to immediately entertain the idea of signing franchise player Michael Conforto, who is a year away from free agency.
Will Brodie Van Wagenen keep his job?
The early word around Cohen is that he is more inclined to add to the baseball operations staff this offseason than subtract from it. Plugged-in folks believe that Cohen will bring in a seasoned executive (a Stan Kasten-type) rather than fire Van Wagenen. Cohen is not commenting on this either way.
It’s worth noting that when Cohen was bidding to buy the Dodgers, he reportedly envisioned a leadership structure in which longtime agent Arn Tellem was president, and Tony La Russa was general manager. Perhaps he will retain Van Wagenen as GM but layer over him. SNY’s Jim Duquette was the first to suggest this publicly, which he did on Baseball Night in New York on Monday.
We can’t emphasize enough how preliminary this all is. But if you’re looking for a reading of tea leaves, this is what we have.
We’d also add that this winter will bring uncertainty like the industry has never seen. The Covid economy has ravaged the game and will likely create a record number of free agents. There might not even be Winter Meetings. All in all, it won’t be a good time to be seeking another GM, not if Cohen wants to have an impactful offseason.
How involved will he be?
People who have worked for and with Cohen tell us that he is a demanding boss, requiring long hours and high standards.
We don’t yet know if he’ll work at the Citi Field offices, as current Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon does. For what it’s worth, Cohen did not regularly attend the meetings for Mets limited partners while owning eight percent of the team. He sent a close associate, Andy Cohen (no relation), to represent him, and kept a personal distance from the team.