For most of Steve Cohen’s introductory Zoom conference on Tuesday, the new owner of the Mets presented himself as measured, intelligent and process-oriented. But there was one moment when Cohen flashed his inner George Steinbrenner, revealing a championship-or-bust mentality.
“If I don’t win a World Series in the next three to five years — I’d like to make it sooner — I would consider that slightly disappointing,” Cohen said.
In an industry where success is defined by perennial contention, not championships, those were extremely aggressive words. The three organizations generally regarded as the smartest in baseball – the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees – have one combined championship in the past 11 years. They are admired for annual excellence, not rings.
Cohen went out of his way to mention the Dodgers as a model. The current ownership at the Guggenheim group took over that franchise in 2012 and did not win the World Series until this year. In between, they were strong contenders. Can the Mets really beat this pace by several years?
All of this brings us, in an admittedly roundabout way, to a deadline at 5 p.m. today. That’s when Marcus Stroman must decide if he will accept the one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to return to the Mets. If he does, a dream rotation fronted by Jacob deGrom, Trevor Bauer and Stroman will remain possible, and a championship in the near term becomes a slightly more rational goal.
Make no mistake, the Mets want Stroman to accept. They consider $18.9 million a slight overpay compared to what the open market might pay Stroman for 2021, but are willing to simply accept a premium to have him in place at the beginning of the offseason. This is the new reality for Cohen’s Mets: Is that player a little too expensive? You want him? Just get him.
Rival executives strongly believe that Stroman will accept the offer, which would allow him to enter free agency next year in a post-vaccine market and with no draft pick attached. But those executives aren’t talking Stroman, who is the wild card here. He might want to simply bet on himself now and experience the free agency that he has earned.
Stroman’s only direct comment on the situation, we think, came in response to a question we tweeted at him last week about whether he is considering accepting. He responded with a gif of Will Smith as the Fresh Prince shrugging.
If Stroman does do what the Mets hope and accept, Sandy Alderson can fill out the top of his rotation behind deGrom with the man likely to win the National League Cy Young Award tonight. Alderson’s comments on WFAN yesterday about Bauer showed to the public a side of him that’s always been there – the sense of baseball as entertainment.
“I actually think Bauer would be a great personality in New York,” Alderson said. “The kind of guy that fans would endorse. We’re in the entertainment business.”
You’ll recall that Alderson was once GM of the Mark McGwire/Jose Canseco/Rickey Henderson Oakland Athletics. Many baseball fans of a certain age had the Bash Brothers poster on their bedroom wall.
“Sandy Alderson gets it,” Bauer’s agent, Rachel Luba, tweeted Tuesday night.
Combine Alderson’s understanding of theatrics with his boss’ willingness to overpay players in order to fulfill an aggressive championship pace, and it’s easy to picture Bauer signing with the Mets. We don’t mean to present that as anything close to a done deal. Bauer will be in high demand and could land elsewhere. It’s just that he and the Mets are already making strong eyes at one another.
Now imagine if he slotted between deGrom and Stroman next year. That’s quite the win-now rotation.