NEW YORK — Mets owner Steve Cohen expressed frustration with the state of his underperforming club and suggested the possibility of a trade deadline selloff if the team does not get back into contention for a playoff berth.
“All is not lost yet, but it’s getting late,” Cohen said during a news conference Wednesday. “I’m preparing my management team for all possibilities. If they don’t get better, we have decisions to make at the trade deadline. That’s not my preferred end result. We’re preparing all contingencies.”
Despite boasting the highest payroll in the history of the sport at a projected $360 million, New York is 36-44, sitting in fourth place in the NL East, 17 games back of first-place Atlanta and 9 games out of the last wild-card berth.
“I don’t care if it’s 16½ or 14½ or 18½. It’s terrible,” Cohen said. “That’s not what I expected.”
Mediocrity has permeated the Mets’ star-studded roster, with future Hall of Famers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander struggling to live up to their standards while being paid a combined $86 million. Additionally, there’s the underperformance of star shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is hitting .223, while first baseman Pete Alonso has struggled in June, hitting .157/.232/.431 since returning from a bone bruise and sprain in his left wrist.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating,” Cohen said. “I watch every game, I watch what’s going on. Would I have expected us to be in this position at the beginning of the season? No. But here we are. It’s kind of weird. It’s kind of strange to me. I don’t know if the players are anxious. I don’t know if they’re pressing.”
And while Mets fans are clamoring for changes — such as firing manager Buck Showalter or general manager Billy Eppler — Cohen expressed patience with his leadership group, insisting that blowing things up was not his management style.
Cohen said Eppler and Showalter would “absolutely” remain in their jobs through the end of the season.
“I’m a patient guy. Everybody wants a headline, fire this person, fire that person,” Cohen said. “But I don’t see that as a way to operate. If you want to attract good people to this organization, the worst thing you can do is be impulsive and win the headline for the day. I know the fans want something to happen, but sometimes you can’t do it because you have long-term objectives.”
But changes could still be on the horizon if the Mets do not improve. New York already traded infielder Eduardo Escobar to the Los Angeles Angels, paying $4,720,430 to the Angels, who will pay $387,097 of the remainder of Escobar’s $9.5 million salary, a prorated share of the $720,000 minimum for the season’s last 100 days.
Cohen did not rule out the possibility the Mets could trade more players ahead of the deadline and eat more salary in order to receive better prospects.
“I already consider the money spent,” Cohen said. “In an unfortunate circumstance, if I can find some ways to improve our farm system, that’s the path we take. ‘Cause I’m willing to do it.”
When asked if he would consider trading Verlander and Scherzer, Cohen declined to engage further. Both pitchers have full no-trade clauses in their contracts.
“These are great pitchers and we brought them in for a reason,” Cohen said. “I don’t want to broach that topic. I haven’t gotten that far yet. Plus they have contracts, by the way.”
Cohen said he continues to pursue a president of baseball operations, someone who would rank above Eppler. Part of what drives Cohen to be patient with Showalter and Eppler is wanting to attract the best talent possible to Queens.
“If you want to hire great talent, they just don’t show up,” Cohen said. “I’ve been patient because I do not want to make a mistake. I can’t tell you if it’s going to be this year, I don’t know if it’s going to be next year. I don’t know. But at some point, that’s going to happen.”
Cohen said that if the team remains in a similar position in the playoff race as the trade deadline inches closer, he would not want to add players to the roster.
“I think that would be pretty silly,” Cohen said.
When asked who bears responsibility for the team’s struggles, Cohen shouldered the blame.
“There’s plenty to go around. I mean, I’ll take responsibility,” Cohen said. “I’m the owner. Ultimately, we’re not as crisp as we were last year. … Hope is not a strategy, so this is what we’re faced. We don’t have a ton of options until we figure out where we are.”
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.
Steve Cohen ‘preparing all contingencies’ if Mets don’t improve