Yoenis Cespedes wasn't supposed to come back to the Mets. The Mets weren't supposed to dole out the money to keep the Cuban slugger. To pony up and spend has not been the Mets' modus operandi in the post-Madoff world. It was very well understood that once Cespedes arrived in Flushing that he would not be coming back, the Wilpons simply wouldn't allow it. And so the World Series ended, and Cespedes wandered to free agency. It was supposed to be the end.
Neil Walker arrived, and Asdrubal Cabrera followed him. The lovable Bartolo Colon returned, as did Jerry Blevins. Antonio Bastardo was brought in to shore up the bullpen, and Alejandro De Aza came to town. The greatest sin of all, mediocrity, was brought to the Mets' doorstep, like a dead squirrel from the jaws of a cat. De Aza, a pretender to the throne of center field. Cespedes is no maestro there, but De Aza is worse. He is a worse hitter, a worse defender, and most of all, he is not Cespedes. Though the Mets had a perfectly adequate, and actually somewhat admirable winter without Cespedes, it all felt lesser than whole without him.
Not anymore. After nearly losing him to the hated rival Washington Nationals, the Mets have re-signed Cespedes to a three year, $75 million dollar deal. The contract includes an opt-out clause after the first year. His $25 million average annual salary is tied for the highest rate of all time. If he opts out after the first year, he'll walk away with $27.5 million.
The Nationals reportedly offered Cespedes $100 million over five years, but he has opted to stay in New York and take a higher AAV. The opt-out clause also allows him to dive into a 2016 free agent class that seriously lacks talent. There's a good chance that the two years following the opt-out clause are naught but window dressing for a humongous one-year pillow deal. It's not as much a three-year deal as much as it's a one-year deal with a two-year player option. Even if it is, it's a massive victory for the Mets and their fans.
How could they not have fallen so deeply in love with him? In 57 games, he launched 17 home runs deep into the night while hitting .287/.337/.604. He was worth 2.7 fWAR in that short span. The 6.7 fWAR he posted between New York and Detroit were far and away the most he's ever posted in a single season, and it's more than likely that he will fall back down to Earth in incredible fashion in 2016. In reality though, it doesn't matter.
The Mets are a complete team, center field defense or not. Consider this possible lineup:
- Curtis Granderson
- Neil Walker
- Yoenis Cespedes
- Lucas Duda
- David Wright
- Travis d'Arnaud
- Michael Conforto
- Asdrubal Cabrera
For one small moment, though, and for at least one season, Mets fans can rejoice. What was lost has been found. The Mets didn't need a Mike Trout or a Bryce Harper to make them great. They needed a Cespedes. They have one now. The payroll has ballooned to near $140 million. That's small for a major market team but it's manna from heaven for Mets fans.