There’s a growing expectation in the industry that Yoenis Cespedes will indeed get a five-year deal this offseason, writes Mike Puma of the New York Post, which could be problematic for the Mets. Puma cites an industry source in reporting that the Mets could be comfortable in the $100-110MM range over a four-year term, but the team’s comfort level with a fifth year and a total value approaching $130MM is considerably less certain.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson has previously said that he hopes to have resolution on the matter one way or the other by the end of next month’s Winter Meetings, and Puma notes that the Cespedes camp has a similar timeline. Whether the team is able to re-sign Cespedes or not will also have a significant impact on Jay Bruce’s future, Puma writes, as the team could look to trade Bruce if Cespedes returns to Queens. New York is currently listening to offers for Bruce, he continues, though the Mets wouldn’t make any kind of move until they know the outcome of the Cespedes situation.
If Cespedes does sign elsewhere, that doesn’t preclude the Mets from moving Bruce, though, as Puma notes that Alderson and his staff could look at signing either Jose Bautista or Dexter Fowler as a fallback option. If they’re able to do so, then a trade of Bruce would again be back on the table.
It’s not entirely clear which clubs pose the biggest competition for Cespedes at this time. He’s been connected to the likes of the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees and Nationals, though certainly there are other clubs that have corner-outfield vacancies, including the Orioles, Rangers, Mariners, Blue Jays and Phillies, to name a few. And, unlike last season, Cespedes is now the top position player on the board, whereas last year he had to compete with a number of other corner outfielders, including Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Alex Gordon. While Cespedes does have a qualifying offer attached to him this time around, his status as top dog on the free-agent market (and yet another excellent season added to his track record) should yield a more robust market.
As for Bruce, the 29-year-old (30 in April) has long struck me as a curious fit for the Mets. With Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto both in the mix, the Mets already have two left-handed-hitting outfielders that should be limited to the corner slots. None of the three lefties handles lefties particularly well, either, and while there’s hope for Conforto to make some strides in that area it’s unlikely that either Bruce or Granderson will make any marked improvement at this point in his career. Shopping him around certainly makes some sense, even if Cespedes doesn’t return. It’s a tough market to do it in, as there are several free-agent alternatives, but Bruce has drawn interest from the Blue Jays in the past and would fit their current desire for a left-handed-hitting outfielder. The Giants, Rangers and Orioles each make varying levels of sense for Bruce as well, although those names are listed here purely in speculative fashion at this point. Bruce is owed $13MM in 2017 and batted a combined .250/.309/.506 with 33 home runs last season.