The hitting market started to pick up as soon as Chris Davis made the decision to re-sign with the Orioles. Since then, OF Justin Upton has signed with Detroit, and more recently OF Yoenis Cespedes has found his way back to the New York Mets. Cespedes had been having trouble finding a market for his services, even though he was not tied to draft pick compensation. However, the Mets were able to snatch him up on a 3 year, $75 million deal, which includes an opt-out after the first season. This no doubt has a big impact on the entire National League, and more particularly the NL East because the Washington Nationals were rumored to be the runner-up in the bidding for the Cuban outfielder. Below I’m going to analyze how Cespedes faired in getting this contract and dive further into what this signing means for the Mets chances in 2016 and beyond.
On Cespedes: Earlier in free agency I predicted that Cespedes would land a 6 year, $160 million deal, and that I would have been comfortable giving him a 6 year deal for $150 million. In the end, he got much less guaranteed money than I had anticipated. However, this contract doesn’t look as bad as it seems when you dive further into the outfielder’s current situation. Cespedes was clearly facing a market for premier position players that was not too expansive to say the least. And not only were there not a lot of teams that wanted these premier hitters, the teams that were involved aren’t necessarily known as big spenders. Cespedes was frequently connected to clubs like the Orioles, White Sox, Astros and Angels (who publicized their limited budget). These teams don’t necessarily spell out big contracts. In addition to this, once Davis and Upton both came off the board, Cespedes’ market looked even more bleak.
A couple days before the right-handed hitter signed with the Mets, their division rival Washington Nationals seemed to be in the lead for the all-star outfielder. According to MLB reporter Peter Gammons, they were reportedly offering Cespedes a five-year contract that would pay him $100 million. While this is no where near what Cespedes wanted, it was a long-term deal, which many people began to doubt he would get as the offseason wore on. Instead Cespedes went for the shorter term deal with the Mets. It was clear that the outfielder enjoyed playing in New York, which helped him to come to this decision, but it could also end up being a wise business move as well. With the opt-out after the first year, if Cespedes has a good season, he can re-enter the free agent market next season, where is there is considerably less competition, unlike this past offseason. However, if Cespedes gets hurt or has a down season, he will be able to build his value for two more years and still be relatively young at age 33, when this contract is up. This deal allows for Cespedes to go to a championship contender, and it gives him the ability to maximize his value.
On the Mets: New York was originally way out of the mix early in the offseason when Cespedes was demanding a long term contract worth close to $175 million. But as the offseason wore on and on, we started to hear more rumblings about the Mets getting involved, even though they were strictly not going over three years on a contract offer for the slugger. Cespedes eventually gave into the three-year deal because of the opt-out, and in the process the Mets greatly improved their chances of going back to the World Series. Cespedes is a proven power hitter and should provide the same fear in the lineup that he did for the team the last two months of the regular season. In turn, this should make the rest of the Mets lineup better, which is good because the team did lose their postseason hero in second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Nationals. This deal is a huge win for the 2015 NL East champs because they got the hitter that they needed in the middle of the lineup, and they did not have to commit a serious amount of money to re-sign him. Even if Cespedes has a great 2016 season and opts-out for a bigger contract, this means that the Mets would probably be in a good position to do some damage in the postseason. This was one of the better deals for a club this offseason, the only complaint I see is that the Mets should have given him a long-term deal so they know they could rely on his production for five more seasons.