Here are the Mets' challengers in the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes

The Mets are just waiting for the inevitable next step, when slugger Yoenis Cespedes will exercise the opt-out in his contract,making him a free agent five days after the completion of the World Series. That doesn’t mean the Mets are not sizing up the competition when it comes to getting the Cuban outfielder back eventually.

Cespedes transformed the Mets from a team rebuilding around young pitching to a contender that made an unlikely run to the World Series in 2015 and led the Mets back to the postseason in 2016, only the second time in franchise history they have made back-to-back playoff appearances.

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Yoenis Cespedes should draw plenty of interest in the free agent market this offseason.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

He was the engine that drove the Mets’ lineup in 2016, hitting .280 with 86 RBI and 31 home runs, despite playing most of the season with a right quad strain. They know they need him back and have kept open the channels of communication to try and entice him.

With Cespedes likely to land a contract worth around $100 million this winter, here is a look at the five teams that have been rumored to be the Mets’ main competition in the Cespedes sweepstakes.

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THE BIG THREATS

GIANTS

Long before they ended the Mets’ season in the National League wild-card game, industry sources were talking about the Giants as the natural landing spot for Cespedes. They were ranked 28th in the majors in home runs with just 130 and 25th in slugging percentage last year, something that signing Cespedes would quickly resolve. With Angel Pagan a free agent and not likely to be re-signed, they have a vacancy in left field, where Cespedes prefers to play. The Giants have shown a willingness to spend on free agents — just look at last winter, when they spent $130 million for six years of Johnny Cueto — and could be the team that goes the distance for Cespedes.

The Giants are perhaps the leading contender.

The Giants signed Johnny Cueto to a $130-million deal last year, so why not give Cespedes something similar?

The Giants signed Johnny Cueto to a $130-million deal last year, so why not give Cespedes something similar?

(Eric Risberg/AP)

ANGELS

Yoenis Cespedes is worth the headache for the Mets

The Mets should be wary of the teams in the West signing their slugger, and the Angels could be a strong contender. Coming off an 88-loss season, the Angels also have $40 million coming off their payroll and have a pressing need in the middle of the lineup and an opening in left field. The Angels could use the veteran right-handed bat as some help for Mike Trout. The Angels will not have to worry about giving up a first-round draft pick if, as expected, the Mets slap the qualifying offer on Cespedes, because their pick is protected.

The Halos are definitely in the hunt.

THE DARK HORSES

MARLINS

The Marlins already employ perhaps the best offensive outfield in baseball with Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, so they seem an unlikely suitor for the Cuban slugger. The death of Jose Fernandez last month, however, has the Marlins reeling. Cespedes, whose offseason home on a ranch in Florida is a couple of hours from Miami, would be some protection for Stanton and Yelich and as a Cuban defector, he would appeal to the community that Fernandez reached. The Marlins have shopped Ozuna around in the past and could easily make room for Cespedes. The Marlins may come out of nowhere to join the race.

Yoenis Cespedes sends mixed messages to Mets about future

DODGERS

Could the richest team in MLB get into the mix with Cespedes? Why not? After getting knocked out by the Cubs in the NL Championship Series, it’s clear the Dodgers could use an offensive upgrade. They were rumored to be interested in Ryan Braun this season, but Cespedes would make an obviously bigger splash in Hollywood. Signing Cespedes might mean the Dodgers would need to move some players, considering they have a surplus of outfielders, but they were not averse to exploring the option of trading Yasiel Puig before, and perhaps they’d try again.

The Dodgers are a team that could also be a surprise.

Yoenis Cespedes.

Yoenis Cespedes.

(Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)

THE UNLIKELY THREAT

NATIONALS

Mets expect to pick up option on Jose Reyes

As if signing Daniel Murphy wasn’t enough to tweak the Mets last winter, the Nationals went after Cespedes as well. In fact the Nationals seemingly had a bigger contract on the table for the slugger, but the Mets held onto him with more money upfront and the opt-out after one year to give him the chance to leverage this past season into a bigger deal now. The emergence of Trea Turner as an outfielder and a payroll that is already committed to about $140 million, however, seems to take the Nationals out of the real competition to land Cespedes. The Nationals have been rumored to be more interested in bringing back Ian Desmond — whom they let go as a shortstop after 2015 but who emerged as an outfielder with Texas in 2016 — than going after any high-priced free agent.

The Nationals are not a real threat to the Mets for Cespedes this time around.

THE POSSIBLE REBOUND CANDIDATES

A few outside the box teams that could kick the tires on Cespedes are the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Orioles, White Sox and Red Sox. All have a need for a slugger in the outfield, but Edwin Encarnacion, who will be the other top free agent bat on the market this offseason, has been more frequently mentioned in those teams’ offseason plans. If their first options don’t work out, they could go for a big splash with Cespedes.

THE OBVIOUS CHOICE

In the end, the team that needs Cespedes the most and is probably the best fit for him is the Mets. They know they need him and have been keeping the door open for him and his representatives.

With Cespedes expected to hit the free agent market soon, however, the Mets will have some steep competition to land his services for 2017.

They should be prepared for it.

Tags:
mlb
new york mets
yoenis cespedes
san francisco giants
los angeles angels
miami marlins
los angeles dodgers

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