PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The new collective bargaining agreement contains a fourth tier to the competitive balance tax with penalties aimed toward baseball’s biggest spenders.
Steve Cohen, for whom the “Cohen Tax” is aimed, won’t be deterred. On Sunday, the Mets owner indicated he will still likely surpass that $290 million payroll threshold this season in trying to build a championship team.
“We probably will [surpass it] … I wouldn’t be surprised and hard to say how much,” Cohen said at the team’s spring training complex.
The Mets increased their payroll to the $275 million neighborhood with Saturday’s trade that yielded right-hander Chris Bassitt from Oakland. The team is still searching for bullpen help and could add another significant bat to the lineup.
Cohen, the game’s richest owner — his net worth is estimated at $16 billion by Forbes — said he wasn’t offended by MLB’s attempt to curb his spending. The CBT’s first threshold is $230 million for this season.
“My view is we have to look at that agreement in its entirety, and $290 million is a pretty big limit,” Cohen said. “I have to live in the baseball confines and I am OK with it.
“I know the name for it, it’s called the Cohen Tax. The way I describe it, it’s better than a bridge being named after you or something like that. It’s still a lot of money to spend on a payroll. I don’t feel that it’s so confining that I can’t live with it.”
Cohen indicated he’s in no hurry to initiate negotiations with Jacob deGrom, whose contract contains an opt-out after this season. The two-time Cy Young award winner is returning from a season shortened by a low-grade tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.
“We’re going to play the season and then we are going to figure that out,” Cohen said. “Jake will do what he does. We love Jake and we’ll figure it out at some point.”
Cohen said he was involved in the discussions that led to Bassitt’s acquisition for pitching prospects J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller. The owner was also heavily involved in the negotiations that led to Max Scherzer arriving on a three-year contract worth $140 million in November.
“He’s a great pitcher and I definitely got involved,” Cohen said. “I think it was really important for Max to hear my vision and sort of let him get to know me and where the team was going, so I got involved.”