Where Steve Cohen’s Mets focus is amid trade deadline chatter

LONDON — Steve Cohen did not want to talk about the trade deadline.

He kept insisting it was premature. He also understands that the truest statement about whether the Mets will buy or sell by July 30 will be made without words and not by him, but rather the actions of his team.

His Mets then went out and for 3 hours and 27 minutes made a case for both sides of the debate, vacillating between the hard to watch and then ultimately the stirring. They concluded the London Series with a 6-5 victory thanks to a hail of strong late at-bats, surprising Phillie ineptitude and one dazzling, game-ending play by Luis Torrens.

There was a playoff feel to this game and not just because of the 55,074 at London Stadium. Both managers recognized the off-days book-ending the series allowed proactive bullpen usage. Thus, there were frequent mid-inning relief changes you do not see quite as much these days and aggressive pinch-running.

But the two teams were in quite different places. The NL-best Phillies were trying to match their best-ever record through 65 games and even with a split of this two-game series, at 45-20, are already a near cinch to make the playoffs. For the Mets, the difference between doing enough to be eight games under (28-36) rather than 10 in the forgiving NL wild-card race felt weighty and Carlos Mendoza conceded, “There’s a sense of urgency here.”

The calendar said there should be, even if Cohen said he is not there yet.

Luis Torrens #13 of the New York Mets jumps over Garrett Stubbs #21 of the Philadelphia Phillies as he completes a double play on a ball hit by Nick Castellanos #8 of the Philadelphia Phillies to end the 9th inning. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“I tell you, it’s amazing,” Cohen said. “Forgetting the Mets, all anybody wants to talk about during the season — it’s not the season. It’s the trade deadline. It’s going to come, guys. I’m telling you, it’s going to come. It will be here shortly. But in the meanwhile, I’m going to focus on winning games.”

He added, “We will worry about the trade deadline when the time comes.”

But it is approaching. The Mets have perhaps a month to prove that they should not be in full sell-off mode for a second straight year. When asked if he had theories on why a team that he anticipated being an above-.500 contender is again floundering toward being a seller, Cohen instead insisted the processes that reporters and fans do not see daily are beginning to work way better.

“The decision-making that is going on with the Mets is a lot sharper than it has been in the past.” He cited the team not dawdling further with Omar Narvaez and purchasing Torrens from the Yankees for $100,000 in what might have just been a few-week fill-in until Francisco Alvarez returns. Cohen noted that Torrens had helped the Mets win games in the meantime “and when you are fighting for a playoff spot, winning one game or winning two games really matters.”

Torrens then helped win another game. He back-picked Alec Bohm at first base in the fifth inning. He singled to launch a three-run surge in the sixth that enabled the Mets to tie the score. And he walked in a three-run top of the ninth to help the Mets overcome a 4-3 deficit. Then in the bottom half, after the Phillies closed to 6-5 and had the bases loaded with one out, Nick Castellanos squibbed a ball in front of the plate.

Perhaps in the Mets’ play of the year, Torrens fielded bare-handed, retreated to step on the plate for a force before completing a 360-degree spin to throw to first to complete an inning-ending double play — getting clipped in the left foot and upended at home by the sliding pinch-runner Garrett Stubbs.

Drew Smith #33 of the New York Mets celebrates with Luis Torrens after defeating the Phillies 6-5 in London. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Mets in the coming days will have to decide whether Torrens or Tomas Nido, both out of options and playing well, should stick. But the bigger-picture decisions followed the Mets to Europe, and now home.

“What are we, four games out of the wild card [before Sunday’s action]?” Cohen said. “We shouldn’t be proud of that, right? We’re still nine games under [.500], but it gives you the opportunity to make the season a success. And so that’s the way I’m looking at it.”

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen on the field before the game against the Phillies on Saturday. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Cohen had spent a week in London, arriving early because his Point72 has a large footprint in the city and he could do business here. He did a bit of a pub crawl with Mets fans and seemed relaxed and enjoying the mingling with dignitaries and fans on the field before both London Series games.

He continues to insist that creating a sustainable winner is his goal and — to that end — one more year of selling and further stocking the system would seem the wise move with a team this untrustworthy. But Cohen said it is not “black and white” that the Mets would receive prospects they liked enough to make trades worthwhile and also that winning has value. And he declared that is what he wants for 2024 — not an eye on the trade deadline. But more winning.

That, of course, would be the loud statement he craves.

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