Rejoice Mets fans, Yoenis Cespedes is coming back to New York. Based on the moves the organization had already made this offseason and the stingy spending habits the front office has shown historically, it seemed highly unlikely that the Mets would be able to bring back their superstar outfielder. However, after seeing the way Cespedes carried the team past the Washington Nationals in the NL East en route to their 2015 World Series berth, the fan base had been clamoring for the front office to keep Yo.
Just like the division unfolded last season, the fight to acquire Yoenis Cespedes also came down to the Washington Nationals and New York Mets. The Nats reportedly offered Cespedes a five-year deal somewhere in the $100MM range this week, a bit shy of the six-year deal Cespedes was searching for at the beginning of the offseason. Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted on Friday that the Mets were also meeting with the free agent outfielder to see if he’d consider returning to the club on a shorter contract with a higher annual value and an opt-out option. The two sides struck a deal later that night for three years, $75MM with an opt-out after year one. The contract is slightly front loaded as Cespedes will earn $27.5MM in the first year of the deal and also includes a full no-trade clause.
Cespedes’ age is what hindered his ability to get that long-term deal like younger outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward were able to this offseason, but the early opt-out clause in his contract allows Cespedes to prove himself over a full year with the Mets and hit free agency again at 31 years-old in a much weaker outfield class. Cespedes’ top competitors next year if he chooses to opt-out would be Carlos Gomez, who is the same age, and Jose Bautista, who will be going into his age 36 season. If Cespedes can come close to duplicating his 2015 campaign, then he will most definitely be the top coveted position player on the market in 2016.
There is definitely a level of comfort with Cespedes returning to New York, and having come over from Cuba at the age of 26, there is reason to believe he is truly coming into his prime right now. Cespedes is coming off a career year in which he set new high totals in home runs with 35 and RBI with 105. Cespedes slashed an MVP-caliber .291/.328/.542 over the course of the season and kicked-it into a new gear when he slugged .604 after being traded to the Mets at the deadline with 17 bombs in just 57 games. He showed an ability to put a whole team on his shoulders that he has never shown before, and his presence alone in the heart of their lineup makes the Mets a much deeper team. Of course, bringing Cespedes back into the fold essentially makes newly acquired Alejandro De Aza an expensive fifth outfielder, but this was just too good of a deal for the Mets to pass up.
I believe Sandy Alderson has a plan. He has addressed some of the glaring weaknesses for the Mets that reared up in the World Series, and he has repositioned the team to make another run at it with a squad very similar to the one that caught fire in August. Now with a full year of depth and and full year of Cespedes, the Mets can be a true force in the East from the jump. Also, with this possibly being the last year of Matt Harvey in a Mets uniform, the Mets window is open now. They are well positioned to compete for years to come with their young and talented pitching, but knowing Harvey will be a difficult free agent to bring back when he hits the open market gives some perspective to the opt-out in Yo’s contract. If Cespedes decides to go elsewhere after the 2016 season, the Mets could always find a trade partner for Harvey and quickly retool in time for the next crop of prospects that includes Florida State League MVP, Dominic Smith. However you slice it, Friday was a good day to be a Mets fan.