3:23pm: Céspedes will indeed opt out of the season, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen confirmed to reporters including Heyman. Thankfully, Céspedes is safe and healthy, but concerns about the risks of COVID-19 informed his decision to sit out the remainder of the year.
Thus concludes one of the more confusing and concerning stories of the 2020 season thus far. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, Van Wagenen and the Mets were unsure of Céspedes’s safety or location at the time of their initial statement, which was issued in the interest of transparency. After dispatching a security outfit to Céspedes’s hotel room, they discovered that he had left, and it was only when contacting his agent that the team learned of his decision not to play the rest of the season.
With his decision, Céspedes’s Mets tenure has reached its presumed conclusion, with his contract set to expire at season’s end. And perhaps today’s nebulous saga was the only fitting way to wrap up the 34-year-old’s Mets career, which has been a captivating spectacle for Mets fans, from his 2015 heroics to the contentious injuries that cost him nearly two whole years.
Céspedes becomes the 20th player to opt out of the season (not counting Nick Markakis, who reversed his decision and will play this year), and the latest in a string of players to have done so since COVID-19 outbreaks within the ranks of the Marlins and Cardinals over the last week.
It doesn’t appear that Céspedes has opted out in relation to an existing health condition, and if he isn’t considered a “high-risk” individual, he will forfeit the prorated amount of his base $11MM salary for the season, and will reach free agency in the offseason. To be sure, Céspedes is comparatively well-positioned to absorb a year without pay, given his hefty career earnings; still, it’s significant given the precipitous decrease in salary he’s seen over the last two years, with his 2019 and 2020 salaries both taking hits due to the circumstances surrounding his ankle injuries.
From a baseball perspective, the Mets will be nicely equipped to deal with Céspedes’s absence for the rest of the year, with a stocked position player group that includes a handful of DH and left-field options. Céspedes had been off to a slow start this year, striking out 15 times in 34 plate appearances and batting just .161/.235/.387 for the season. His departure should in fact give some clarity to the Mets’ lineup, with Dominic Smith likely handling the bulk of DH duty from now on, while J.D. Davis settles into a regular role in left field.
We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for Céspedes, who will hit the open market this winter for the first time in his career. Of course, he has a track record of great success since defecting from Cuba in 2012, but injuries have sullied the last few years of his career, making it difficult to detect whether he’s still capable of producing like he did in 2015, for example. This would have been his year to prove that, but prospective suitors will instead have to take a gamble on a polarizing player.
1:18pm: As their Sunday matchup with the Braves got underway, the New York Mets announced that outfielder Yoenis Céspedes’s whereabouts are unknown. The Mets released the following statement:
“As of game time, Yoenis Céspedes has not reported to the ballpark today. He did not reach out to management with any explanation for his absence. Our attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.”
Obviously, this is a concerning situation for all involved, even more so given the stringent nature of COVID-19 protocols. Further details are not known at this time. We’ll provide any updates as they come in.
The Mets, as one would expect, are doing what they can to locate Céspedes. For what it’s worth, SNY’s Andy Martino has heard that the team has “no reason to believe that Céspedes’ safety is at risk” at this time.
Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, there’s speculation across the league that Céspedes intends to opt out of the 2020 season, which would certainly offer some insight into his absence today. However, if that is indeed Céspedes’s decision, he has not yet declared it to the Mets, according to an earlier report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.