Yoenis Cespedes will be a member of the New York Mets for at least one more season, proof that if a fan base complains enough on social media anything is possible. With Cespedes re-signing in New York, the final big free agent from the 2016 class is off the board. The deal could pay Cespedes up to $75 million over three years. He has a full no-trade clause and the ability to opt-out after the 2016 season. If Cespedes exercises his ability to re-enter the free-agent market next offseason, he will make $27.5 million for his services next season.
There is a lot to unpack when it comes to Cespedes’ new contract. For starters, he turned down at least two five-year offers to return to the Mets for up to three years. In reality, he did not leave much money on the table by taking a shorter deal. The Baltimore Orioles offered no more than $90 million, while the Washington Nationals’ offer was lower on an annual basis with deferred money. The five-year offer from the Nationals was essentially very comparable to the deal Cespedes agreed to with the Mets when accounting for money that would be paid out far in the future.
The most interesting part of the contract to digest is the opt-out clause after just one year. The opt-out has become the hot new trend in baseball contracts, and it’s hard to see Cespedes not using his. The 2017 free-agent class is very weak. In this year’s class, Cespedes was the fourth- or fifth-best option. Next year? He’s likely first on the list for any team needing a bat.
The opt-out clause is the most valuable part of the deal for Cespedes. If he uses it, he gets a few million more from the Mets, and will likely be able to sign a four- or five-year deal all over again. Cespedes will be 31 next October, and will still be able to add two or three more years of guaranteed money. Even if he does not exercise the opt-out, Cespedes is still making $25 million per year. That’s a whole lot of money for a player with one 30-homer season and a .319 career on-base percentage.
In turning down the offer from the Nationals — somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million — Cespedes will not end up costing himself money. By taking the short-term deal, Cespedes was able to make himself a $25 million per year player. In reality, he is not that type of player, but the Mets could take that type of financial hit for three years because their young pitching is still so inexpensive. If Cespedes plays out the entire contract with the Mets, he will go back on the market before his 34th birthday. At that point, if he even comes close to 30 homers and 100 RBIs per year, Cespedes will still be a $20 million player, bringing his earnings to well over the $100 million he could have earned with the Nationals.
The Mets bring back a big-time power bat, saving them from having to rely on Lucas Duda and Michael Conforto to carry the offense. Yes, Cespedes is not an elite defender in center field. There’s no denying he can be a liability in the outfield, but the pitching staff is so dominant that a few misplayed balls can be overlooked (unless they are hit by Alcides Escobar in the World Series). Cespedes may not be the offensive force that carried the Mets in August, but he does relish in being “The Man.” That cannot be downplayed on a team with no one else capable of being “The Man.” After two years spent playing for four teams, Cespedes wanted continuity, and he got that by staying in New York.
This deal is a win for all parties involved. Cespedes is perfectly suited to handle the pressures of playing in New York in a way that few players are. The Mets bring back the player that launched them to a World Series berth. Their social media intern will no longer be inundated with a constant stream of angry tweets about how cheap the Wilpons are. Most importantly, the Mets keep their best player from joining their biggest divisional rival.
It took all winter, but the Mets got their man. No need for an airing of grievances this time around.