Olney: Will Steve Cohen’s wild ways change MLB spending forever?

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The shocking signing of Carlos Correa makes two truths about these new-look Mets perfectly clear: Steve Cohen is a dream come true for fans in Queens.

And Steve Cohen is the nightmare other baseball owners have feared.

With the addition of Correa on a 12-year, $315 million deal, Cohen has bought a roster of baseball Lamborghinis. Each member of the Mets’ projected infield has at least two All-Star appearances. The No. 1 and No. 2 starting pitchers should be unanimous selections for the Hall of Fame. The Mets’ closer struck out half of the hitters he faced last season, before getting the biggest contract ever for a reliever. The Mets fans who suffered through the years when the Wilpon family sometimes conducted business as if it were running a small-market team are rejoicing at the big-spending tendencies of the owner referred to on social media as Uncle Steve.

To many other owners, however, Cohen is like the new neighbor who has covered his lawn with the brightest holiday lights; hell, it’s as if Cohen has thrown up scaffolding to account for every ornament in the store. Cohen is heightening the disparity between the haves and have-nots, creating new expectations for his team — and also for how other owners should spend.

The explanations of Boston Red Sox leadership for why they couldn’t possibly afford Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts sound even more ridiculous now. And even on the morning that Hal Steinbrenner introduced Aaron Judge as the new Yankees captain with a record nine-year deal, Cohen grabbed the headlines. He has blown up the context for what it means to be a big spender in New York; the city’s baseball skyline has been completely altered.

“There’s no doubt, they will be a draw,” one rival evaluator said. “Everybody will want to take their shot at them. This will be like Michael Jordan’s Bulls, in the ’90s. The expectations are off the charts.”

None of it is accidental. Cohen set his sights on Correa a week ago, and tried to make a last-ditch effort to pry him from the Giants. Though it didn’t work the first time, it did this week, when the Giants raised concerns about Correa’s physical and the Mets’ proactive owner swooped in to make this deal while hanging out in Hawaii. He phoned the New York Post to brag about the deal, apparently before Correa even had time to take a physical for the Mets — maybe in an aloha shirt and bright lei.

When Cohen bought the Mets in 2020, he announced that he wanted to win a championship within three to five years, and in just 26 months, he has taken the Mets’ payroll way past all the luxury tax benchmarks to a record $380 million (and counting). It’s possible that by year’s end, the Mets will spend more than $400 million. Cohen’s luxury tax bill — just his luxury tax bill –– could be greater than the payrolls of 10 to 12 other teams.

The Giants, meanwhile, still find themselves desperately in need of a headliner, one who might help sell jerseys in the way that Barry Bonds and Buster Posey once did. In time, San Francisco executives might be completely vindicated in their careful, conservative decision to step back from their $350 million agreement with a 27-year-old star. Though the Giants didn’t specify what their concerns were over Correa’s physical, that such worries existed was not a surprise to many in baseball. Since Correa first became a free agent in the fall of 2021, representatives from numerous teams expressed concern over the player’s back, having heard that he had gotten treatment before games and had experienced discomfort on team flights.

But good luck to the Giants in defending their caution to a frustrated fan base hungry for stars, especially because of the contrast to the actions of the swashbuckling Cohen — whose traveling band of superstars is scheduled to pass through San Francisco in April (including a game on “Sunday Night Baseball” on April 23.)

Early in the offseason, the Twins made it clear they wanted Correa back, and according to industry sources, they offered $285 million over 10 years. When you factor in state taxes and the length of the proposals, rival evaluators note that Correa is actually making markedly less annually in his deal with the Mets than he would’ve gotten with the Twins, let alone the Giants.

But Correa has always been a big-stage personality, someone who gravitates toward the brightest lights — in this case, Cohen’s lights, in New York.

And he just might be a perfect fit in his new owner’s clubhouse. As another evaluator put it, Correa brings “leadership, experience on the big stage, been-there, done-that. And a f— you attitude in big games” — an attitude not dissimilar to the one that Cohen brings to baseball ownership.

Through the years, the phrase “’til death do us part” has applied to the Mets’ fan base, which was borne through a series of historically bad seasons in the 1960s leading to the miracle season of 1969. For years, they have watched the Yankees spend more and win more. They endured the trade of Tom Seaver, the slow disintegration of the 1986 championship team, the rollback in spending in the ’90s. As the Yankees landed Reggie Jackson, David Cone, Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens, the Mets often countered with second-tier players.

No more. The Mets are now the biggest spenders, and might be the best team in the NL — better than the Braves, or the Phillies, or the Dodgers. “They are way better, clearly,” the evaluator said. “They won 101 games last season and now they add [Justin] Verlander and Correa. They have upgraded their bullpen — they have a true lefty in [Brooks] Raley, and you’ve got [David] Robertson to go along with [Edwin] Diaz and [Adam] Ottavino.”

As Cohen said in his victory lap with The Post, “I hope the fans show up.” Oh, yes, they will; for Mets fans who ardently supported the team through the worst of times, these are the best of times. That is certain, just as it is a sure thing that owners and executives with other teams are livid about this. Cohen is stirring tensions that will manifest in owners meetings in years to come, and maybe in the 2027 labor negotiations as small-market owners aim to force the players to offset the big-market/small-market financial disputes, just as they did in 1994, before the players’ strike.

Maybe some owners will eventually view Cohen through the broader, smarter lens of longtime Oakland executive Billy Beane, who has long maintained that the big-spending Yankees are great for baseball — they drive interest, drive conversation and compel fans to go to the park. Beane also understands that in baseball, sure, a big payroll might give you a better chance to buy the best players, but that doesn’t guarantee championships. Despite the many billions the Yankees and Dodgers have spent in the past 22 years, those clubs have each won one title — while making billions for the other teams in the sport.

The Mets are baseball’s new Death Star; to other owners, Cohen might be the new Darth Vader. And as with any installment in the Star Wars franchise, everyone will be watching.

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