Steve Cohen prefers a long-term approach to building a winning team over trying a quick fix through free agency.
In a question-and-answer session Wednesday night hosted by Howie Rose on the team’s YouTube channel, the new Mets owner indicated that as much as he’s a fan and wants to win immediately, his aim is to build a foundation for sustained success.
“As a fan they want me to sign everybody tomorrow, but is that a sustainable strategy?” Cohen said. “Ultimately you want to develop talent. You want to develop your farm system. To me that is the most sustainable way to create a winning team year in and year out. Yes, you can go buy players, but you buy players that are in their 30s potentially and we know there’s plenty of data that suggests performance of players tends to decline once they are in their early 30s.”
Under Cohen, a hedge-fund billionaire who completed his purchase of the club last month, the Mets have added catcher James McCann on a four-year contract worth $40.6 million. Reliever Trevor May arrived on a two-year deal for $15.5 million. The Mets remain in the hunt for George Springer, the top outfielder on the market and Trevor Bauer, the best starting pitcher available in free agency.
Cohen reiterated that he’s leaving baseball decisions to the front office, headed by team president Sandy Alderson, and won’t interfere.
“Everybody wants to win now — I want to win now,” Cohen said. “But I also don’t want to put ourselves in a position where if we don’t win now we have just hampered our ability to win down the road. As I am learning, these are hard decisions. They are not easy decisions and you are dealing with imperfect information because you do not know how they are going to perform as they go through the contract.
“The data suggests if you sign enough players in their 30s you are going to regress to a mean and you are going to end up with potentially mediocre performance if you sign enough of them. … I’ve got to bridge that gap. Right now the farm system, at least the upper levels, isn’t where we want it to be.”
The Mets have fallen behind in the use of technology and analytics, but Cohen expects that to begin changing. He cited discussions to implement cameras that can measure a pitcher’s biomechanics.
“They are going to have everything they need,” Cohen said. “We are not going to be skimping on that type of stuff. Obviously you need to measure if that expenditure was worthwhile. On top of that you have to train the people who will be using this equipment, and the players to get the most out of it. You just can’t install equipment and hope it works. It’s a people problem, too.”
Cohen was asked what success in Year 1 of his ownership will resemble. The Mets finished last in the NL East in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
“That we have a playoff-caliber team and that we have improved our performance in a significant way,” Cohen said. “I would be disappointed if we didn’t step up in performance.”