Steve Cohen and the New York Mets’ perilous pursuit of free agency

Aug 24, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; German tennis player Alexander Zverev (left) watches the game between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants with Mets owner Steve Cohen (right) during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; German tennis player Alexander Zverev (left) watches the game between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants with Mets owner Steve Cohen (right) during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /
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Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer.  Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

2015

Pitchers were the two biggest catches following the winter of 2014, and eventually the biggest of that offseason’s moves did pay off.

The Nationals lured Max Scherzer with a seven-year, $210 million contract. Becoming the ace of the staff, Scherzer led Washington to 2016, 2017, and 2019 postseason appearances, the latter ending in a World Series victory.

The Chicago Cubs gave Jon Lester a six-year, $155 million contract, and he immediately became the team’s ace. Lester went 77-44 until being traded away in midseason 2021, and added a dozen post-season appearances between 2015 and 2018. His work in the 2016 postseason, including being named MVP of the team’s NLCS victory over Los Angeles, was pivotal to the Cubs’ first World Series victory in 108 seasons.

The winter’s other major free agent decisions were less fruitful. The Red Sox, who one winter earlier had invested $88 million over four seasons on Hanley Ramirez, doubled down and committed $95 million over five years to Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval batted .237 before being sent back to the Giants, Boston paying almost all of his 2018 salary.

The Toronto Blue Jays gave Russell Martin a five-year, $82 million deal to catch for them. Martin hit .225 for the Jays, although he was behind the plate for the team’s 2015 and  2016 postseason runs. Both ended in ALCS losses, Martin batting .108 in those series.