As expected, Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the two remaining years of his three-year contract with the New York Mets, hitting free agency once again, only this time in a much less crowded field. He might end up going back to the Mets, but the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals are extremely likely to pursue him in free agency.
Cespedes made $27.5 million with the Mets, a team he joined in 2015 after getting traded from Detroit. He signed a 3-year, $75 million deal with the option of leaving after one season. Cespedes was expected to take the exit option because of the relatively weak outfield crop with him in this free agency class. He was looking for a nine-figure deal last season, but couldn’t land it when there were others like Jason Heyward and Justin Upton around.
So Cespedes “gave up” $47 million knowing he can make it up. He’s 31, with a history of never staying in one place for too long since entering the majors in 2012. However, his production has been fantastic once again, hitting 31 home runs for the Mets while batting .280 and posting a .884 OPS. He made the All-Star game for the second time in his career, helping them make the wild card game, their second consecutive postseason berth since Cespedes arrived.
Whether or not Cespedes is the best player in this free agency market is arguable, but it’s hard to believe that this time he won’t be getting a four or five year deal promising him more than $100 million. The Nationals made him a five-year, $110 million offer, but with a decade of heavily deferred payments, making it only a $77 million deal in present day value. They need outfield power hitting, and might give Cespedes something a bit more to his liking, despite his age.
The Giants spent a lot of money on pitching last season, but their hitting problems showed all through the second half of last season. They managed to limp into the playoffs, but it had more to do with Madison Bumgarner being incredible with the season on the line than anything else. With their pitching situation (maybe not the bullpen) in a good spot, the Giants might not hesitate to spend big on an outfielder like Cespedes, ranking 25th in major league baseball with .398 slugging.
But maybe staying where he’s been the best is the best for him. Cespedes just completed his first full season with a team since 2013 with the Oakland A’s. He’s made some big money from baseball and is in a position to make some more. Some could theorize that the connection between him and New York City and specifically the Mets is what brings out the best in him. The Mets are unlikely to offer him another $25 million-per season deal, but $110 million over five seasons or somewhere in that vicinity should do the trick, especially as he’s on the wrong side of 30.