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New York Mets owner Steve Cohen suggests $300 million budget limit for the team moving forward

Matt Johnson
MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets have the highest MLB payroll in 2022 at $282 million, spending significantly more than the Los Angeles Dodgers ($260 million) and New York Yankees ($248 million). While owner Steve Cohen is willing to go to extreme lengths to win a World Series, there appears to be a limit.

Cohen seemingly became a target for MLB owners the moment he bought the Mets. As part of the new collective bargaining agreement signed this year, owners implemented a new tax threshold. Nicknamed the “Steve Cohen Tax” around baseball, there are new tiers of penalties in places for clubs who exceed the $230 million luxury tax threshold.

Under the new system, first-time offenders receive a 20% tax on anything they spend over $230 million. It applies to the Mets this season, but the figure could climb significantly higher based on the tiered system of offenses and the final luxury tax payroll at the end of the season.

Tax TierLuxury Tax PayrollTax Rate Increase in Consecutive Years)
First$230-$249 million20%/30%/50%
Second$250-$269 million32%/42%/62%
Third$270-$289 million62.5%/75%/95%
Fourth$290+ million80%/90%/110%

Carrying an estimated net worth of $17.4 billion, per Forbes, Cohen can afford whatever penalties MLB hands down. However, maintaining the highest payroll in MLB and blowing past the tax line would add up over time with staggering penalties in the third and fourth years.

Related: MLB playoffs

That’s likely part of the reason why Cohen seems to be hinting that New York’s payroll likely won’t climb much higher than it is right now. It’s a situation he described in detail to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman on The Show” podcast

“You should be able to build a pretty good team at $300 million. If you can’t do that, then that’s a problem.”

Steve Cohen on New York Mets budget limitations

Evaluating the New York Mets long-term payroll

MLB: New York Mets at New York Yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

New York will be spenders this winter, especially if the team falls short of winning a World Series. Cohen made it clear the moment he landed the job that he is committed to turning the team he grew up rooting for into a winter. However, the Mets are facing a difficult situation this offseason.

Early estimates from FanGraphs project the Mets’ payroll at $194 million. While $30.5 million would come off the books once Jacob deGrom exercises his opt-out, New York wants to re-sign him and it will cost a lot more than his current 2023 salary.

  • New York Mets payroll in 2023 (FanGraphs): $194 million

deGrom isn’t the only free agent. All-Star closer Edwin Diaz, outfielder Brandon Nimmo along with relievers Seth Lugo, Trevor May and Adam Ottavino are among the MLB free agents in 2023. In addition, Chris Bassitt will likely hit the open market and Taijuan Walker will decline his $6 million player option to test free agency.

There’s another important factor at play. Luis Gillmorme, Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso are all due for significant raises through arbitration. At least for now, the looming decisions aren’t something that concerns Cohen.

“We can figure this out pretty quickly — these decisions aren’t that hard. It really depends on who we want to bring back, what are the other opportunities out there, and we’ll figure it out”

Steve Cohen on looming decisions for New York Mets this winter

Realistically, New York might not be able to keep deGrom with teams like the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers viewed as threats to land him. While Diaz would seemingly want to return, he’d likely want to set the market coming off a historic season and could ask for upwards of $17 million per season.

It all makes the remainder of the 2022 season even more important for the Mets. This could be the most talented team fans will see at Citi Field in years, making it the perfect opportunity to finally snap the World Series drought.