Posted on October 27, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Something the New York Mets have been expecting has been all but confirmed. Several media outlets are reporting that outfielder Yoenis Cespedes plans to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Cespedes has until three days after the conclusion of the World Series to make the move official, and once that happens, he will likely become one of the most sought after players on the free agent market.
The Mets originally acquired Cespedes in a deadline deal in 2015, and the Cuban slugger proceeded to have an unbelievable two months, helping propel the Mets to the NL East title and ultimately the National League pennant. When Cespedes didn’t get the kind of long-term deal he coveted last winter, he returned to the Mets on a three-year deal that included an opt-out clause after the first season.
It was assumed all along that if Cespedes had a good season in 2016 that he would opt out of the deal, rather than stay with the Mets for two more years and earn $47.5 million. Despite missing time with a nagging quad injury, Cespedes hit .280 with 31 home runs this year, making the decision to opt out and hit the open market relatively easy, despite a glimmer of hope from Mets’ fans that he would decide to return.
As was the case last season, Cespedes, 31, is seeking a five-year deal. However, unlike last season, Cespedes is, with little doubt, the best free agent outfielder available. This means he will likely get the long-term offer he’s seeking from a team, perhaps multiple teams, making it unlikely that the market will come back to the Mets the way he did last winter. New York will certainly make an effort to re-sign Cespedes, but there will be hesitancy to give him the type of long-term deal he wants. The Mets may only offer Cespedes a deal similar to the one he signed with them last offseason, giving him a lot of money up front with an opt-out clause but no long-term commitment.
Of course, the Mets have expected Cespedes to opt out all along, so they are in some ways prepared for him to leave New York. The Mets acquired Jay Bruce over the summer, and will almost certainly pick up his $13 million option for 2017 to give them an all-star caliber power bat in the middle of their lineup. However, losing Cespedes will still create a major hole in New York’s lineup, especially with second baseman Neil Walker, who was arguably the team’s second best hitter behind Cespedes in 2016, also being a free agent.
Cespedes has frequently spoken about his love of playing in New York and playing for the Mets, and so all other things being equal, it seems that he would like to return. Obviously, the Mets would love for him to return as well after what he’s meant to the team over the past year and a half. But to make that happen, the Mets will have to make a serious financial offer to Cespedes, one that is at least somewhat comparable in years and money to any other offer he may receive. If the Mets are unwilling to do that, it’s likely that Cespedes will end up signing elsewhere this offseason.