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Mets’ free agent spending this winter matches Marlins’ all-time total

Playing in the same division, living in different universes.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) hugs Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) on the field after clinching the Central Division after an MLB game between the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park, Sunday, September 17, 2017. Houston Astros defeated Seattle Mariners 7-1. Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Money doesn’t fix everything, huh? Steve Cohen is challenging that conventional wisdom this offseason.

Despite coming off one of the most successful regular seasons in six decades of New York Mets baseball, there was plenty of anxiety around the club just a couple months ago. The Mets were upset on their home turf by the San Diego Padres in the NL Wild Card Series. Nearly half of the players on their playoff roster were set to become free agents. Merely keeping pace with the Braves and Phillies in their own division seemed like a tall task.

It’s been well-documented that Cohen, a longtime hedge fund manager, is the wealthiest owner in Major League Baseball. Even so, nobody imagined that he would flex his resources so brazenly just to take the incremental step from “World Series contender” to “World Series favorite.”

Including Wednesday’s reported agreement with Carlos Correa, the Mets have allocated $806.1 million in guaranteed money to free agents during the 2022-23 offseason (and we haven’t begun the “23” portion of it yet). By comparison, all of the players to sign major league free agent deals in the entire history of the Florida/Miami Marlins have received a cumulative guarantee of $807 million, per Cot’s Contracts. As Fish Stripes readers are painfully aware of, that number has not budged yet this winter.

Correa’s 12-year deal is twice the length of the Marlins’ record-setting, six-year pact with José Reyes. Reyes signed back in the good ol’ days when the Mets had less competitive owners who reluctantly parted with desirable players due to financial restraints. But during the Cohen era? Justin Verlander—all by himself—has a higher 2023 salary than the Marlins pitching staff and it is not even close and Max Scherzer’s salary is just as high. These teams are being constructed under the same rules, just with different levels of emotional investment.

Marlins chairman Bruce Sherman is deservedly getting skewered for withholding the dollars his front office needs to win the bidding for veteran players. It was somewhat understandable to sit out of the Correa sweepstakes given how many other holes there are on Miami’s roster, but whiffing on short-term floor-raisers like Justin Turner and Brandon Drury? This offseason has demoralized a fanbase known for setting very modest expectations.

The stat at the heart of this article is a reminder that Sherman is merely patterning his behavior off of his predecessors. For the vast majority of the Marlins’ existence, their owners have lacked the ambition to spend on talent upgrades. It puts immense pressure on all other aspects of the organization to compensate for this self-imposed handicap. It’s an unreasonable ask.