While the Nationals are said to have made a five-year contract offer to Yoenis Cespedes, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Mets are now discussing a three-year contract which would include an opt-out provision after the first year of the deal (Twitter link). Olney also tweets that the expectation among some involved in the discussions is that Cespedes will make a decision within 24 to 48 hours.
A three-year deal with an opt-out next winter would represent somewhat of a compromise between the two sides, as the Mets have long been said to have interest in Cespedes, but only on a short-term deal. FOX’s Ken Rosenthal wrote last night that Cespedes prefers to return to New York, although the team’s previously reported maximum contract length of three years was well shy of the division-rival Nationals’ reported five-year pact. Adding an opt-out provision to the three-year scenario for the Mets, however, would allow Cespedes the opportunity to test the open market again next winter while giving him some financial security should things head south in 2016 (either due to injury or poor performance). A three-year deal with an opt-out after 2016 would, in some ways, be a modernized form of the traditional one-year “pillow contract” — a concept I explored two weeks ago in the MLBTR Newsletter and discussed at length on last week’s MLBTR Podcast with Jeff Todd.
Specific parameters on the three-year/opt-out scenario being discussed have yet to be reported (perhaps because they’re not yet set in stone), but rejecting a five-year offer worth around $100MM (and possibly a bit more) would certainly be a risky play for Cespedes, who is already coming off a career year in which he batted .291/.328/.542 with 35 home runs. Next winter, he’d be entering his age-31 season, which could potentially limit a team’s willingness to commit to him on a long-term deal, as they’d be receiving less of his prime than they would by signing him this offseason. Cespedes and his representatives have to assume that he would be subject to a qualifying offer next offseason as well — another potentially detrimental component with which he did not have to contend this offseason. Then again, next winter’s free-agent class is considerably worse than the crop of free agents we saw in 2015-16, and if Cespedes approaches his 2015 numbers, he’d be one of the top two or three free agents available.
Suffice it to say, Cespedes and his agents have a number of factors to consider when determining which scenario is in his best interest. It also remains possible, albeit perhaps unlikely, that a dark-horse team will emerge and give Cespedes a stronger offer than the one he’s currently received from the Nationals. The Orioles were previously said to have interest in Cespedes on a five-year deal, although that was prior to the team’s signing of Chris Davis. The White Sox and Braves have both been connected to Cespedes as well, albeit on shorter-term deals (which, presumably, did not include opt-out clauses such as the one the Mets are now said to be considering).