Posted on November 5, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s official, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is a free agent, and arguably the best free agent available this winter. Cespedes informed the Mets on Saturday that he would be opting out of his contract after one season, forgoing the final two years and $47.5 million on the deal he signed last winter to test the free agent market for the second straight offseason.
Of course, the Mets fully expected Cespedes to opt out of the contract after one year. By offering him a three-year deal with an opt out after the first season, the Mets were able to convince Cespedes to return to New York in 2016. The Mets were hoping that a full season with Cespedes in their lineup would help them return to the World Series for a second straight year. But the Mets suffered far too many injuries, particularly to their starting rotation, and despite a strong finish to clinch a wild card spot, New York’s season ended there.
The Mets will make an effort to re-sign Cespedes, but that may be difficult, as the Cuban slugger is expected to be one of the most sought after players on the free agent market this winter. New York was pessimistic about its chances of re-signing Cespedes last offseason, but when he didn’t receive the kind of long-term offers he was expecting, Cespedes chose to come back to the Mets with the option to try free agency again this year. However it’s far less likely that the market for Cespedes will come back to the Mets this time around the way it did last winter.
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It’s likely that Cespedes will sign a deal worth over $100 million this offseason. It’s also likely that he will be given a contract of at least four or five years. The Mets are unlikely to be the team that signs Cespedes to such a deal. Under GM Sandy Alderson, the Mets have been reluctant to sign players to long-term deals involving that much money. If there’s one player who could be an exception to that, it could be Cespedes, although the Mets are reportedly concerned about the effort Cespedes would put forth if he’s locked into a long-term deal, despite his immense talent.
Earlier this week there were reports that the Mets had yet to engage with Cespedes in contract talks, further signaling that the Mets are pessimistic about being able to retain him. The Giants and Angels are expected to be among the leading suitors for Cespedes, although the Angels just filled their void in left field by acquiring Cameron Maybin. The Dodgers and Marlins are also teams to watch if they can open up space in their outfield. There are also several potential dark horses for Cespedes, including the Nationals, Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Braves.
The Mets will undoubtedly make Cespedes a qualifying offer of $17.2 million, which will give them an extra draft pick next year if he signs elsewhere, but that draft pick will offer little consolation if Cespedes doesn’t return to New York. The Mets certainly need Cespedes, and their fan base is desperate to have him back, but whether that’ll be enough to re-sign him now that he’s back on the open market remains to be seen.