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Tribune News Service
Bill Madden

Bill Madden: Steve Cohen’s Carlos Correa deal is just plain reckless for the Mets

NEW YORK — By bringing in Derek Jeter for the occasion of naming Aaron Judge as their 16th team captain, the Yankees Wednesday did their best to blunt the hysteria reigning over in Queens with Steve Cohen’s stunning 3 a.m., $315 million pilfering of Carlos Correa from the Giants.

But make no mistake, this latest aggressive foray into free agency by the Mets owner, which catapulted his payroll to a staggering $384 million, sent shockwaves throughout baseball that are going to be felt for years to come. Back in October 2020, 26 of the 30 owners voted to approve Cohen as Mets owner. I would suspect most all of them now regret that. Prior to Wednesday, Cohen could defend his previous $500 million expenditures on Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, et al., as being simply a matter of reinforcing the Mets in the face of the potential loss of eight key free agents, including Diaz, Nimmo, Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt.

But now comes the Correa signing — a player Cohen really didn’t need, with a very capable third baseman in Eduardo Escobar, and their top prospect Brett Baty next up on the depth chart — and the only way you can look at it is just plain reckless. At least that’s the way the rest of baseball is looking at it. Or as one high-level baseball executive put it to me Wednesday: “Since when did Carlos Correa become a $300 million player? What has he ever done? He’s been an All-Star twice. What kind of a difference did he make last year in Minnesota?”

The answer to that question is: This offseason when the shortstop market exploded (although you could make the case that Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts, all of whom got less money than Correa, were superior players, especially offensively). And none of them had the stain of being one of the ringleaders of the 2017 Astros cheating scandal.

None of this, of course, mattered to Cohen, who has become the new go-to owner delight for Correa’s agent Scott Boras, the Great Bamboozler. Boras has had one heckuva winter, hauling in over $2 billion in free-agent contracts. And when his 13-year, $350 million deal for Correa with the Giants threatened to fall apart over an issue with the physical, Boras knew he had a panting Cohen — who’d been late to the bidding game originally for Correa — still at the ready to make this happen for the Mets.

Meanwhile, how bad do the Giants look in all this after losing out to the Yankees on Judge and then losing Correa after calling a press conference to introduce him without first getting the results of the physical?

Word is Correa was always the darling of the Mets’ analytics dweebs, who convinced Cohen this was the one missing bat they needed. We will never know what Buck Showalter’s feelings were, although Escobar had quickly established himself as one of the manager’s favorites, and he also couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu from when he was in Texas and had to deal with another highest-paid Boras client, Alex Rodriguez, who had a direct line to the owner.

It is indeed a superstar lineup Cohen has accumulated and it’s Showalter’s challenge now to keep them all happy, off the phone to the owner, playing as a team — and to win. Cohen has spent more than $800 million on free agents this winter. His payroll is presently almost $100 million more than the Yankees’. Add in the estimated $110 million in luxury tax penalties (which is more than seven other teams’ entire payrolls) and Cohen’s total nut for 2023 will be over $500 million, at the same time his gross revenues are projected to be $450 million. He is not going to accept anything less than a World Series in Citi Field next October.

At the same time, however, Cohen, the fan probably doesn’t understand that money doesn’t guarantee anything in baseball. Right now, the last thing he is thinking about is the very real possibility his two aged $40-plus million aces, Verlander and Max Scherzer, will be worn down come next October. You can bet Showalter has, though.

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