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Don’t confuse the headline for the idea that Carlos Correa, his agent Scott Boras, and the MLB Players Association shouldn’t bother filing a grievance against Mets’ owner Steve Cohen for publicly commenting on an unfinished free agent contract that ended up never being consummated. If they feel that the public, on-the-record comments — which are not supposed to exist until a deal is done, which is why you see general managers and owners playing coy all the time while we wait for press conference time to roll around — harmed Correa’s market in any way, they not only have a right to file a grievance, but a case they could win.
The thing is more that Cohen doesn’t care, and will gladly pay whatever the punishment is if a grievance is filed and the Mets lose it. He likes to talk, and more importantly, he can afford to talk. He didn’t learn from speaking publicly about Kumar Rocker’s drafting and failure to sign — another decision centered around a physical — even though his tweet on the matter ended up being used in the class action suit, Senne v. MLB, to underscore the value of minor-league players.
Education time – Baseball draft picks are worth up to 5x their slot value to clubs .I never shy away from investments that can make me that type of return.
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) August 1, 2021
And last month, we had Cohen doing an on-the-record interview with the New York Post while he was vacationing in Hawaii and had negotiated directly with Boras, presumably while his front office was letting out a huge sigh about all of the protocols that were being ignored because their boss wanted Correa and couldn’t just do it all by the book.
For most MLB owners, the idea of something just costing money is anathema to them, and they’ll avoid whatever processes lead to that outcome. Cohen, though, obviously does not care about money to the same degree. He has significantly more of it than every other MLB owner who isn’t also like, a multinational corporation that happens to own a pro sports team, and given the top penalty threshold for the luxury tax is nicknamed the “Cohen tax” and he was right up against that even before the (now non-existent) Correa deal was agreed to… it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t mind spending it.
Which is mostly just a way of saying that the PA could file a grievance, win with ease now that Correa had to settle for just $200 million guaranteed with the Twins rather than the $315 million over 12 years the Mets had initially agreed to and been so ready to spend that Cohen was giving interviews about it — I imagine it’s going to be fairly easy to convince an arbitrator that the Mets’ about-face after such public assurances that Correa was worth it helped in reducing the Twins’ final offer of guaranteed money as much as it did, especially since they just had him on their roster and were reportedly willing to go to $285 million before the Giants and Mets swooped in — and nothing in the owner’s behavior would be likely to change. Why would it, when we’re talking about a guy who lit $750 million on fire during the Gamestop stock saga of early 2021? He spent all that trying to shore up investments, and then proceeded to jump the Mets’ payroll from a little below the first tax threshold to nearly $290 million for CBT purposes. This isn’t the Wilpons we’re talking about: there’s always more money behind whatever Cohen is spending, and so long as the Mets continue to exist within MLB’s extremely profitable, once again record-breaking revenue structure, whatever Uncle Stevie spends is coming back to him and then some, anyway.
Let’s say, realistic or not, that the Mets are found to owe Correa for the difference in value between his near-deal with them and what he’s signed with the Twins for. Or maybe the difference between what the Twins first offered and what they ended up agreeing to, since there will be at least a little bit of an assumption that the Twins would have reduced their offer once they did get their hands on the physical. Regardless of what the amount ends up being, the way this all played out ensured that the Twins had even more leverage in negotiations with the shortstop, and that’s due to Cohen’s public statements, which means there will be some amount awarded if there’s a grievance. And Cohen will simply pay it, and then sign, I don’t know, Shohei Ohtani next winter live over a Zoom call if he feels like it.
It’s not that Cohen is completely risk-averse — the Mets have now let both a first-round pick and a top-tier free agent walk over concerns with their physicals and failure to come up with a workaround — but that he’s going to just do what he wants. And if he wants to publicly comment on the status of negotiations, or on how he just got off the phone with Boras and is excited about his new mega-signing, or whatever, really, he’s going to do it. Because the only thing doing so will cost him is money, and that’s if he even actually does get in trouble for his actions.
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