One of the headline parts of the new Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement was the “Steve Cohen Tax,” a new level of the not-a-salary-cap salary cap system designed to rein in the Mets’ billionaire owner.
Now it seems like the rest of the National League East is going to push to see if Cohen really goes right up to and past his namesake line, a payroll of $290 million. As of now, New York is projected by Baseball Prospectus at $277.7 million, just behind the Dodgers at $288.1 million.
Friday night, defending World Series champion Atlanta inked former Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen to a one-year, $16 million deal, while the Phillies added slugger and walking disaster meme Nick Castellanos to their outfield.
The Mets already have done a lot this winter with Cohen’s checkbook, but they may still have more to do, depending on what they need to do to avoid a Kyrie Irving situation now that New York City’s private sector vaccine mandate has been extended indefinitely.
Free agency probably won’t be where it happens. The top remaining unsigned players are shortstops Carlos Correa and Trevor Story, and outfielders Jorge Soler and Michael Conforto. Obviously, Conforto has spent his entire career in New York, and the Mets decided that their relationship was over when they added Mark Canha and Starling Marte in pre-lockout free agency.
Plus, Conforto was one of the Mets who was publicly wishy-washy about the vaccine, along with current candidates to be traded Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis, and also James McCann, who won’t be dealt because nobody would touch that contract.Riva
Maybe a forthcoming trade would bring back a contract that gives Cohen the privilege, rather than Dodgers owner Mark Walter, of being first to reach the ultra-tax level. It’s hard to say how it will play out, because as much as billionaires hate taxes, they love showing off how much money they have, and paying an 80% surcharge on baseball salaries over $290 million would certainly be that.