The Mets' failed sale sets up the Wilpons to frustrate fans again

Sporting News

Mets fans were giddy about the prospect of a new owner spending big bucks on players. They should have known better.

That prospective new owner, minority stakeholder Steve Cohen, won't be taking over the club from the Wilpon family after negotiations collapsed this week. Both sides acknowledged the failure Thursday night. The Mets (per MLB.com) said they will begin to look for another buyer. Cohen said he's rooting for a huge sale price.

There are differing explanations as to why Cohen didn't get the club. The New York Post reported that team COO Jeff Wilpon insisted on maintaining total control of the team during the planned five-year transition to Cohen assuming the helm of the club, even though Cohen would have already increased his stake in the team to 80 percent. The Post also reported that Cohen may have tried to drive down the sale price during negotiations. SNY, citing an MLB source, reported something similar.

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The end result of this debacle, which has sent many Mets fans back into their usual states of rage and despair, is that Jeff and Fred Wilpon will remain in complete charge of the payroll.

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Those despairing fans know that more careful spending (they call it cheapness) by the Wilpons lies ahead, with little threat of the team reaching the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. This year's CBT payroll is about $20 million under the line, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, perhaps in anticipation of Cohen paying $2.6 billion to get to 80 percent (he owns 8 percent of the franchise at the moment).

The big offseason moves have already been made. Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha and Dellin Betances were signed as free agents; they'll count $18.25 million toward the CBT. Jake Marisnick ($3.3 million) arrived via trade.

Trade for Kris Bryant or Francisco Lindor? Yeah, no. What happens if the Mookie Betts-David Price trade to the Dodgers somehow collapses? Other teams will get to fill the void without competition from the Amazin's. Early extension for Pete Alonso? It ought to happen, but ...

Worse for Mets fans, there are openings for management to trim payroll and still feel confident the roster is good enough. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen can keep trying to trade Jed Lowrie ($10 million) and perhaps deal Yoenis Cespedes ($6 million after a contract restructuring) if he's healthy. Veteran depth? Wonderful, at least in theory.

Rest assured, though, that Robinson Cano and his $24 million per annum through 2023 aren't going anywhere. No, that's not a good thing.

If the Mets are on the fringes of the playoff race in the summer and the Wilpons are still in charge, then the front office may have an excuse to stand pat, or even sell rather than buy. Van Wagenen's mantra of winning now and in the future will be severely tested.

The fans' patience was tested long ago; it's gone. Until Fred and Jeff are also gone, the frustration and cynicism will remain.

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