MLB owners reportedly unhappy with Steve Cohen’s spending spree: ‘I think it’s going to have consequences for him down the road’

The numbers speak for themselves: A $384.7 million payroll for the upcoming season, plus approximately $111 million in luxury tax fees. And a ridiculous $806.1 million committed in one offseason.

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen isn't being frugal with his money, and that has caught the ire of some executives and owners of other MLB teams.

“I think it’s going to have consequences for him down the road,” an official with another MLB team told The Athletic's Evan Drellich. “There’s no collusion. But … there was a reason nobody for years ever went past $300 million. You still have partners, and there’s a system.”

Despite the flimsy "no collusion" disclaimer (or because of it?), that sounds like a thinly veiled threat. And it speaks to how uncomfortable Cohen's spending spree makes teams that have recently operated in largely similar lanes.

After Cohen swooped in to lure shortstop Carlos Correa from the stalling San Francisco Giants in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Mets owner put a bow on perhaps the wildest offseason by an individual club in a very long time. It's unprecedented because that $111 million luxury tax bill would be more than the total payroll of at least 10 MLB clubs. The $315 million spent to sign Correa is more than the Pittsburgh Pirates have spent on free agents in more than a decade.

While these decisions are undoubtedly praised by players, agents and Mets fans, the other 29 clubs are warning of the effects of Cohen's money. How do they compete with the power and might of a billionaire 17.5 times over? Especially when there's no hard cap to curb his market-setting deals?

“Our sport feels broken now,” another executive told The Athletic. “We’ve got somebody with three times the median payroll and has no care whatsoever for the long-term of any of these contracts, in terms of the risk associated with any of them. How exactly does this work? I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.”

Others believe Cohen's moves could rile owners of smaller-market teams and perhaps sow division in the elite ranks of commissioner Rob Manfred's bosses.

“This game is based on partnership and relationships, and these small markets are going to be really pissed at him,” a club official said. “They’re going to try and gin up s*** and cause Rob (Manfred) to f***ing get pissed at him. It’s not that they can do anything to him, but everybody needs help in this game. I don’t think he’s going to get any help.”

This all leads back to an important marker four years down the road: The collective bargaining agreement set to expire after the 2026 season.

Some owners might want an even stricter luxury tax than the one agreed upon in the current CBA that ended this spring's lockout, considering that Cohen surpassed the $293 million threshold despite the 90% tax on every dollar over the limit. Others might suggest an actual salary cap to limit Cohen's spending — something the MLB Players Association has adamantly and successfully resisted.

But those discussions are years away, and until then, it looks as though Cohen will continue to build the Mets the way he sees fit and with as much money as he chooses to spend.

“The way he looks at this business is so different than his hedge fund,” a former employee of Cohen's told The Athletic. “It’s more like how he buys art. And he just spends whatever it takes on art. The guy’s got a billion dollars worth of art in his house. He gets it because he can.”

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen spent $806.1 million this offseason. (Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen spent $806.1 million this offseason. (Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)