Since the New York Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes last summer, he’s changed the course of the franchise. It could be time to lock him up.
When Yoenis Cespedes re-signed with the New York Mets this past winter, there was a reason an opt out clause was included. If your mentality was (or is) “Cespedes loves New York, he’ll play out his contract,” you may want to rethink. There’s little doubt that he loves the city he plays for, but the almighty dollar is a powerful tool.
Many teams are preparing for a 2018 free agent class that includes Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, and Matt Harvey, in addition to several other all-stars. However, the 2017 free agency class is fairly weak. Cespedes could be the crown jewel of the upcoming winter’s class.
Cespedes, who turns 31 in October, is batting .299 while leading the Mets with 21 homeruns and 52 RBI’s. The production aspect is one thing, but it’s his presence that the Mets can’t do without.
When the Mets acquired the star Cuban outfielder last season, they got more than just a big bat. They acquired a player that strikes fear in the opposition and commands respect when he takes his at bats. He’s the anchor of the lineup, a lineup that’s already inconsistent to begin with.
The Mets offense has struggled even with Cespedes playing at an all-star level this season. It’s hard to imagine how abysmal the offense would become without him.
He also gives the lineup length. This is something that injured incumbents Lucas Duda and David Wright cannot provide when they return. When Duda doesn’t have the pressure of being the cleanup hitter, he can relax and just be another piece to the puzzle. David Wright isn’t close to the player he used to be, and Daniel Murphy isn’t coming back to save the day anytime soon.
Speaking of Murphy, remember how good he was after Cespedes arrived last year? It must have been nice batting third knowing who was cleaning up. You can look at strike out rates, walk rates, etc., but there’s no statistic that measures the respect players command when they get in the batter’s box.
So, what would an extension look like? Cespedes currently has 2 years and $47.5 million remaining on his deal. The Nationals offered him a five year deal last winter, so you would think he’d be looking for an additional three to four years; that type of deal would keep him under contract until his mid 30’s.
Justin Upton’s 6 year, $132 million deal with the Tigers last winter looks like a good starting point. He is a few years younger than Cespedes at age 28, but both are right handed power bats who have produced somewhat similar numbers over the past few seasons. Adding four years on top of his current contract valuing somewhere between $22-25 million per season, could keep him in Queens for the long term.
Letting Cespedes test the market would be a dangerous play for Sandy Alderson and the front office. Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez, and Colby Rasmus are other big name free agent outfielders. Cespedes will likely command more interest than any of the three, which could drive his price up. Locking him would keep the fan base appeased, something that bordered mutiny last offseason.
However, Cespedes and his agent Brodie van Wagenen are business men. They know the open market could net a huge return. Though, if the Mets come calling with an aggressive enough offer, it might be enough for Cespedes to stay in the city in which he loves.