Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes reportedly plans to opt out of contract

Waiting worked last winter, so the Mets seem ready to do that again with slugger Yoenis Cespedes, a team source said. Today’s Knuckleball reported Wednesday night that Cespedes plans to opt out of his contract with the Mets shortly after the conclusion of the World Series. While representatives for Cespedes said no decision has been made — and does not need to be made until at least the end of the World Series — the Mets have expected the slugger to opt out this winter since they signed him in January.

The Mets have tried to keep the conversation going with Cespedes’ representatives this offseason in hopes that they can sign the Cuban slugger to another deal, which is similar to the approach they took last winter. Though it seemed unlikely at this point last year, the Mets waited until January and worked out a three-year, $75 million contract with Cespedes, which included a chance to opt out after the first year.

Cespedes has until three days after the World Series to exercise that option, and according to the report Wednesday night, he plans to do so. Cespedes’ representatives did not reply to messages left for them, but the team has expected this move all along.

The Mets’ first step this year has been to decide to offer Cespedes a qualifying offer — nearly $17 million for next season — which they could not do last winter because of a stipulation in his contract. That offer is pretty much a formality, protection to make sure they receive some draft compensation if he signs with another team. Cespedes is expected to decline the qualifying offer and to test the free agent market.

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Cespedes, who is arguably the biggest bat available this winter, is reportedly looking for a multi-year deal worth more than the $75 million he got with the Mets. There are several right-handed sluggers hitting the market this offseason, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo, which an industry source said could help the Mets bring back Cespedes without making an astronomical deal.

Still, the Mets know they will have to be in the mix for Cespedes and cannot afford to lose him from their lineup. Cespedes, who almost single-handedly sparked the Mets offense to the World Series in 2015, hit .280 with 86 RBI and 31 home runs in 2016, despite playing most of the season with a right quad strain.

Last year, the Nationals made a strong run at Cespedes, reportedly offering him a longer-term deal for more money, but the Mets gave him more guaranteed money up front and the incentive of the chance to parlay a good season into a better deal this winter. The Red Sox could look to be in the mix as a replacement for David Ortiz and even the Yankees have been mentioned as a possible landing spot.

But the Mets know they have to make a serious play for him again.

They have an outfield that needs Cespedes’ power. Michael Conforto struggled in his second major league season, and while Curtis Granderson hit 30 homers, he will be 36 years old and has been inconsistent over his three years with the Mets.

Jay Bruce, whom the Mets acquired to insure some offensive production in case Cespedes exercised his option, struggled in his first half-season in New York. While the Mets are likely to pick up his $13 million option for 2017, that will not quiet the outrage of Mets fans if they let Cespedes walk.

The slugger, who has established himself as a bit of a diva, has also proven he can handle playing in New York. He has said repeatedly that he loves playing here. When asked about next season, Cespedes has said he would like to play for the Mets, but has never committed to declining his option to walk after this season.

“I’ve said it before, my intentions are to be here for three years, and if I could spend the rest of my career with the Mets, I would,” Cespedes said, deftly avoiding the question in August.

It seems that Cespedes plans to test that. The Mets await his next move and then they will wait again and see if they can once again land the biggest bat in their lineup with patience.

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