The Mets Were Right to Admit They Were a $490 Million Failure

A record-breaking payroll didn't payoff for New York

New York owner Steve Cohen speaks to the media.
Mets owner Steve Cohen was smart to see his team was going nowhere
Jim McIsaac/Getty

On Tuesday night, the Astros secured a 2-0 win over the Cleveland Guardians as Houston hurler Framber Valdez notched seven strikeouts while spinning the second solo no-hitter of the season. Earlier in the day, the Astros (61-47) added another ace to their pitching staff by making a deal with the New York Mets (50-56) to reacquire reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander in hopes of securing a third championship with the 40-year-old on the roster. Dealing Verlander — who will still receive $54 million of his remaining $93 million salary from the Mets — on August 1 essentially ended New York’s season two months early. The trade was just one of seven that the organization and general manager Billy Eppler made ahead of Tuesday evening’s deadline as the Mets start looking toward 2024 and beyond after starting the 2023 season with the largest payroll in the history of American sports.

In addition to dealing Verlander, the Mets also sold off other significant pieces in ace Max Scherzer (who will receive $35 million of the $57 million he is owed over the next two years from New York), closer David Robertson, Mark Canha (who will receive his remaining ’23 salary from New York) and utility man Tommy Pham. By dealing Verlander, Scherzer, Robertson, Canha and Pham, the Mets were able to restock their farm system with a number of top prospects, including first-round outfielder Drew Gilbert, lefty outfielder Ryan Clifford, shortstop Jeremy Rodriguez, starting pitcher Justin Jarvis, middle infielder Marco Vargas, catcher Ronald Hernandez and second baseman Luisangel Acuña (the brother of Atlanta Braves’ superstar outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr.).

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According to, Acuña is now the No. 2 prospect in New York’s farm system, Gilbert is No. 4, Clifford is No. 6, Vargas is No. 9 and Jarvis is No. 15. Of course, there’s no guarantee any of them will amount to a hill of beans in the majors, but they at least give the Mets some hope of being able to add to their big league club with cheap, team-controlled talent from the minors in the somewhat near future.

And for the Mets, the future is what it is all about. By making all of the deadline moves, Eppler was able to save owner Steve Cohen a little money, but New York’s payroll still sits north of $377 million, according to Spotrac, and the team will end up costing about $490 million with the luxury-tax bill included, per The New York Post. That’s an enormous price to pay for a team that fell so incredibly short of expectations, but footing a massive luxury tax bill this year can be a one-time event for Cohen, as the Mets’ projected payroll for 2024 is $218,555,192, about $20 million below the $237,000,000 luxury tax threshold for next season.

If the Mets can land all-world talent Shoehei Ohtani in free agency, they’ll certainly be back over that threshold and should be grateful for it. But if the team doesn’t get Ohtani or any other high-priced free agent, they can get under the tax and allow it to reset. (Repeat MLB tax offenders face increasing financial penalties.) Then, in 2025, they can put their increased supply of prospects and Cohen’s deep pockets to good use with a combination of trades and signings that will make the team a contender for the World Series.

That’s what the Mets and their record-breaking payroll were supposed to be this year, but four months into the season, it was painfully obvious they were anything but. Eppler and Cohen were smart to acknowledge the 2023 Mets were a $490 million failure and look ahead to the (slim) chance of landing Ohtani in ’24 and what the team could be in ’25.

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