NOVEMBER 5: Cespedes has officially opted out of his contract, ESPN’s Adam Rubin writes. The Mets will extend him a qualifying offer on Monday.
OCTOBER 26: Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes plans to opt out of the two remaining years on his contract with the Mets, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. His deal gave him a choice between returning to the free agent market and taking $47.5MM for two more years in New York.
The decision to opt out has been expected for quite some time — if not from the dramatic moment the contract was signed in late January, then since Cespedes completed a mostly healthy and entirely productive campaign. Certainly, it has been apparent to the team that Cespedes would test the market, of course, so his decision won’t come as a surprise when it’s made official after the World Series.
Giving Cespedes an opt-out opportunity was a critical element of the Mets’ pitch to him last winter, when he took a smaller total contract (three years, $75MM) than some other teams offered. While the desire to return to New York certainly seemed to play a role, there was plenty of financial sense in the move as well.
Taking the Mets’ offer gave Cespedes the chance to take home $27.5MM for 2016 and then re-enter the market — which, it seems, is exactly what he’ll do. Alternative arrangements would have reportedly promised him as much as $110MM, but would’ve included deferrals, covered five years, and come without an opt-out opportunity.
That gambit seems likely to pay off, as the 31-year-old posted another huge season and now looks to be the biggest free agent target in a much weaker overall group of talent than was available last year. Cespedes followed up on his monster second half run with the Mets in 2015 with a .280/.354/.530 slash and 31 home runs over 543 plate appearances.
Best of all, perhaps, Cespedes showed increased plate discipline — he posted a career-high 9.4% walk rate — without letting the selectivity sap his power. While he didn’t repeat his stellar defensive metrics, that was due in part to the fact that Cespedes was pressed into duty in center (where he has never rated well) and perhaps also to a nagging quad injury.
Importantly, New York will still be able to slap a qualifying offer on Cespedes. He’ll obviously turn that one-year, $17.2MM contract down, but in doing so will enable the Mets to pick up a draft pick if he signs with another team. A second reunion certainly can’t be ruled out after the team surprised with the first, but it seems the Mets will either need to promise more than they’d probably like to or (perhaps more likely) sit back and wait to see whether Cespedes again fails to find a suitable payday from another organization.