The Mets are making another calculated — and potentially risky — bet with Yoenis Cespedes.
The team is gambling that it can leverage Cespedes’ expressed desire to return to the Mets, when multiple teams — possibly the Nationals, and even perhaps the Yankees (gasp!) — may be willing to offer a longer deal and more money.
When Cespedes reached out to the Mets last month, a team source said, the Cuban slugger expressed his interest in returning to Citi Field, but also wanted to make sure the team really wanted him back.
Now here comes the gamble: The Mets are confident that Cespedes now knows how much they need him back in their lineup for 2017 and they are hopeful that his desire to return will help them in what is already proving to be a competitive market for the outfielder this offseason.
While reports are that Cespedes could command a five-year deal that could reach into the $125M-$135M range, the Mets are not comfortable in that territory.
Instead, they are willing to go to four years on a deal with the 31-year old, who struggled with a strained right quad last season, a team source said. They expect to be paying him in the range of $100M-$110M.
Last winter, the Mets waited Cespedes out and got him on a three-year, $75 million deal, which surprised even them. That deal allowed him to opt out after the first year, which was the major incentive. They don’t have that luxury this time.
Now, the Mets would have to make corresponding moves to sign Cespedes. They would have to try to trade Jay Bruce or another outfielder to make room for him and GM Sandy Alderson said they would “realistically” need to get a deal done by early next month.
Cespedes has expressed to teammates and others in the organization that he was happy in his season and a half with the Mets. That could work in their favor, but there are other teams out there that would likely pay more money just to make him happy in their markets as well. The Giants and Dodgers are believed to be among the teams clamoring for his big right-handed bat.
Last year, the Nationals made a strong run at Cespedes, reportedly offering him a longer-term deal with incentives for more money, but the Mets gave him more guaranteed money up front and the incentive of opting out after the first year, meaning a chance to parlay a good season into a better deal this winter.
The Nationals may be interested in seeing the price on Cespedes rise, but would be considered a long shot for him this season. The Yankees have showed some preliminary interest in the outfielder as well.
There are a few other interesting right-handed sluggers on the free agent market this offseason, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo. The Mets hoped that could help them keep the Cespedes market under control this winter.
But Cespedes is by far the best power-hitting free agent on the market out there and the Mets really cannot afford to lose him.
Cespedes, who almost single-handedly sparked the Mets offense on a World Series run in 2015, hit .280 with 86 RBI and 31 home runs in 2016, despite playing most of the season with a nagging quad injury.
After the Mets lost their wild card game to the Giants, Cespedes left his teammates and the organization with mixed messages. He told some he’d be back and others he was leaving. Last month, however, he reached out to make sure that he would still be welcomed back.
The Mets are hoping this will give them an edge.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News