Steve Cohen explains Mets' 'incredible vibe,' 'good-looking team' at spring training

Mets' Steve Cohen
Mets' Steve Cohen / SNY

Mets owner Steve Cohen spoke to the media for the first time from spring training in Port St. Lucie on Monday morning and discussed everything from the organization's offseason to his goals for the franchise.

Cohen was asked if he envisioned the offseason playing out like it did, or if he had to change course as dominoes started to fall around the league. The Mets landed big-time free agents in Justin Verlander and Kodai Senga, while also re-signing key players such as Edwin Diaz and Brandon Nimmo, as Cohen expressed his excitement from what he's seen so far down at spring training.

"Well I was a little surprised that sort of the prices had gone up for players more than I would have guessed," Cohen said. "Listen, it's a fluid situation. We had some ideas on what we were going to do. And you always have contingency plans, right, because you never know how it's all going to play out, right, so you need a plan A, plan B, plan C. But I'm really pleased with how it turned out. We had a lot of free agents, so we had a lot of people to replace and it really turned out well. I'm really excited by this team.

"Walking around yesterday, I feel an incredible vibe here. I think this is the best vibe I've felt since I've started this, being an owner. I'm excited. This is a good-looking team."

Cohen was then asked about the culture the Mets have established since he's taken over, and said he's going to continue building relationships with players and doing things his way.

"Well you know, listen, they're people, right? And just like at Point72, I care about my people," Cohen said. "Other people have said, 'You shouldn't get that close to the players,' and you know, 'I would do it differently.' And I don't agree with that. I think it's important to have a personal touch, I think that matters, it shows you care, my wife feels the same way. It's just the way we are. I'm going to do it my way, and it works for me. It's worked in the past and I'm gonna keep doing it."

While the Mets won 101 games in 2022, they ultimately fell short of their goal of winning a World Series. Cohen addressed the idea of "World Series or bust," saying that the process takes time and you have to continue building towards that goal.

"Listen, you know how hard it is to get in the World Series, right? As we saw last year, right?" Cohen said. "So the only thing you can do is put yourself in position where good things can happen. Got to make the playoffs, the team has got to be healthy, it's got to be rested, it's got to be raring to go. And then you let the chips fall where they may. And if you keep putting yourself there, one day we'll get there. Obviously, I'd love it sooner than later, but I can't control that."

During Cohen's introductory news conference in November 2020, he said that he'd be disappointed if the Mets didn't win a World Series in three to five years. The owner joked with reporters about that quote on Monday but made it clear that there's nothing wrong with having high goals.

"If there was ever one thing I'd like to get back, it's that one, OK," Cohen said. "But all kidding aside, there's nothing wrong with putting out really stretch goals, right? You may get there, you may not. But it's important to set goals that are high and then try to achieve them. If we get there, we get there, if not, we'll keep trying."

He then went on to talk about the team's progress behind the scenes and said that process is just as important as results on the field.

"God I haven't thought about that, I know we made progress last year," Cohen said. "Success can be measured obviously with results, but also, I also think there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes. How we're developing our farm system, the processes we're putting in place, the people we're bringing in. As long as we're advancing the ball forward in a significant way. The results will happen from good process and that's what we're trying to achieve here.

"Plenty of teams have won divisions and they don't win a World Series right away or it takes them a long time. But if you're there every year, your odds go up."

Cohen emphasized that his "personal touch" matters when it comes to signing top-tier free agents, and he plans to continue be involved in those conversations. He was then asked about other owners' thoughts on his offseason spending, saying some told him that he's "100 percent right, you're following the rules." Cohen then explained how important building the farm system is to him, in addition to the obvious goal of winning a championship.

"In the end, when I measure my success as an owner, obviously you want to win a World Series, but I'm also going to measure my success on building a farm system so we can sustainability year in and year out," Cohen said. "That's really important to me. That's how you really create something that's special. The farm system being innovative and doing new things and developing players, taking good players and making them great. If we can accomplish some of those things, and I think we can, then that would be a marker of success for me, personally."

Looking ahead at future spending, Mets star Pete Alonso is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2024 season. Cohen said that he's going to let GM Billy Eppler handle those contraction discussions, and added that Alonso looks to be in great shape coming into spring training.

"Listen, I'm going to let Billy handle that and obviously at the right time we'll figure out what to do," Cohen said. "Pete's a tremendous player and he's a fan favorite. Listen, he just came in and I think he lost 15-20 pounds and in shape. He's a great ballplayer so we'll see how that goes."

Lastly, Cohen was asked about the team's search for a new president, as he and Sandy Alderson mutually agreed to begin that search and conduct interviews back in September. He clarified that Alderson's role with the Mets is now an advisor to him, adding that he's more involved now and is "down there on Thursdays doing meeting with the staff."

"We are still looking," Cohen said. "Like I said, I have high standards. I don't feel like I'm in any rush because the people in management, they're senior people, they're very competent in what they do. So it's got to be someone 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."