Yoenis Cespedes opts out of Mets contract

Yoenis Cespedes has told the Mets he is opting out of his three-year deal and will become a free agent, according to industry sources. The Cuban slugger had been expected to make that move in order to seek a multi-year contract worth over $100 million ever since he signed with the Mets last January. But now it’s official.

The Mets have tried to keep the conversation going with Cespedes’ representatives this offseason in hopes that they can bring back the Cuban slugger on another deal. They can negotiate with him exclusively until Monday at 5 p.m. but Cespedes and his representatives made this move to test the free agent market so that would seemingly be a futile attempt.

The Mets will take a patient approach.

That is similar to how they went about it last winter. Though it seemed unlikely, the Mets waited as Cespedes did not get the mega-deal he wanted and then swooped in late to work out a three-year, $75 million deal. One of the keys to that deal was the opportunity for him to opt-out after the first year and try for that mega-deal again.

For now, however, the Mets have decided to offer Cespedes a qualifying offer of $17.2 million for next season. They could not do that last year because of a stipulation in Cespedes’ contract, but this year it will give them some insurance.That offer is pretty much a formality — Cespedes would make more in 2017 under his current contract — to make sure they receive a compensation-round pick if he signs with another team. It also can be a small deterrent in the free agent market for some teams reluctant to give up their draft pick.

For Cespedes, however, it should not be too big of an issue. He is clearly the youngest, hottest bat on the free agent market right now. With the Giants and Angles looking like they could be possible contenders for his services, he is looking to turn his successful year-and-a-half in New York into a long-term deal, which the Mets are wary of giving out to a player who is 31 years old and has had issues with his leg.

The biggest bat available this winter, Cespedes is reportedly looking for a multi-year deal worth more than the $75 million he got with the Mets. There are, however, a few other right-handed sluggers hitting the market this offseason, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo, who an industry source said could help blunt his market.

The Mets know they cannot afford to lose him from their lineup.

The Mets have given Cespedes a qualifying offer of $17.2 million for next season.

The Mets have given Cespedes a qualifying offer of $17.2 million for next season.

(Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

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.

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 and has been inconsistent over his three years with the Mets.

Jay Bruce, who the Mets acquired to insure some offensive production in case Cespedes walks, struggled in his first half season in New York. The Mets picked up Bruce’s 2017 option on Thursday, but that will not quiet the fans in Flushing if Cespedes gets away.

While Cespedes has at times proven himself to be a bit of a diva, like when he struggled in the Mets’ wild-card clinching game and sat out celebrating with his teammates after, Cespedes has also proven he can handle playing in New York. He has said repeatedly that he loves playing here and this season, 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 of whether he would exercise his option back in August.

Now the Mets have to wait and see if they can make that a real possibility.

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