After two months of uncertainty, the New York Mets and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes reunited when the former All-Star signed a three-year deal on Tuesday worth $75 million to help the defending National League Champions get over that final hurdle.
With a fresh new contract in hand, members of the Mets front office and Cespedes, along with his agent, met the media on Wednesday to discuss everything about what the deal means for both parties.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson summed up perfectly what Cespedes' return does for the franchise, per the team's official Twitter account:
"This (deal) makes a statement about the here and now." - @MetsGM.— New York Mets (@Mets) January 27, 2016
Alderson also talked about the immediate future for the Mets with Cespedes, per Marc Carig of Newsday:
“It’s a clear acknowledgement that the present is important for us.” Alderson— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) January 27, 2016
The present is crucial for the Mets, who have a starting rotation good enough to win a World Series. Groups like Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and the returning Zack Wheeler don't come along often, so it's imperative to strike while the iron is hot.
The Mets have other questions, involving lineup depth and relief pitching before closer Jeurys Familia, so keeping a player who hit a career-high 35 homers last year and is just 30 years old keeps them in the running in a National League East that figures to be competitive in 2016 with the Washington Nationals on the rise.
Another interesting comment about Cespedes' deal from Alderson involved the public relations discussion, per Carig:
Alderson: “We understood the magnititde of this issue with the media and our fans.”— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) January 27, 2016
It's no secret the Mets' ownership has had financial problems stemming from Fred Wilpon's investment in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, so there was uncertainty if it had enough money available to retain Cespedes.
Yet Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon noted how Cespedes' deal will look to other potential free agents, per Carig:
“We’re a destination now.” Jeff Wilpon— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) January 27, 2016
Everyone around MLB saw where the Mets were last summer before they made the deal for Cespedes—unable to score runs and floundering around .500 with one of the league's most dominant pitching staffs being wasted.
Ownership signed off on the blockbuster trade with Detroit at the trade deadline, the offense led the NL in runs scored after the All-Star break and the Mets won their first NL pennant since 2000. It wasn't all Cespedes' doing, as Michael Conforto was called up and David Wright returned from injuries, but the power-hitting outfielder certainly helped the middle of the order.
Cespedes' agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, took the battle for his client directly to the Mets and Alderson, per Carig:
Van Wagenen asked Alderson: “Are you in it to win it?” Alderson’s answer was yes. From there, sensed deal was possible.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) January 27, 2016
Both sides came out on the winning end in this deal. The Mets get the PR boost of retaining arguably their best position player for 2016, while Cespedes will make $27.5 million next season and has the ability to opt out after the year to get a lucrative long-term deal with a much weaker free-agent class.
However, Van Wagenen did try to sell the deal as one Cespedes believes is going to last longer than one season, per the Mets' official Twitter account:
One interesting wrinkle that developed late in Cespedes' negotiations with teams this offseason was Washington's presence.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the Nationals offered Cespedes $110 million. Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com did note that Washington's offer to Cespedes wasn't that good, with deferrals paying out the money for 15 years.
Wilpon told reporters, per Carig, that Washington's involvement did not impact how the Mets approached Cespedes.
Whether Wilpon is being entirely truthful or not, it's irrelevant to what matters for Cespedes and the Mets now. Both parties got what they wanted from this offseason, and the team will enter 2016 as one of the favorites to win the National League.
There are a lot of great teams in the NL right now, with the Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks all looking formidable.
The Mets dwarf everyone in starting pitching impact and depth, with Cespedes giving them the cleanup hitter they badly need to hit for power. It's an exciting time to be a fan entering an MLB season in New York for the first time in years.