Yoenis Cespedes Could Ride Massive Offseason Bidding War to $150 Million Payday

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2016

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 27:  Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets in action against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on July 27, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Cardinals defeated the Mets 5-4.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

If Yoenis Cespedes is throwing together an offseason playlist, he may want to start with The Beatles' "Baby You're a Rich Man." 

That could be followed by Sean "Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy" Combs' "It's All About the Benjamins." Then, perhaps, ABBA's "Money, Money, Money."

Are you sensing a theme?

Cespedes is about to be a big fish in a shallow free-agent pool. He's going to get paid accordingly.

Yes, technically he hasn't opted out of the three-year, $75 million deal he signed with the New York Mets in January. But after pulling down $27.5 million in 2016, Cespedes is reportedly planning to pull the contractual rip cord.

The Cuban slugger intends to "wait until three days after the Series for the official move, because there is no incentive to make an early declaration," according to ESPN.com's Adam Rubin.

Rubin added the Mets are "pessimistic about their chances of re-signing him."

"My focus is just to play baseball and help the team win, hopefully make it to the playoffs," Cespedes said in August, per Mike Puma of the New York Post. "I let my agents worry about all that."

Cespedes is reportedly planning to opt out of his contract with the New York Mets.
Cespedes is reportedly planning to opt out of his contract with the New York Mets.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Chances are his agents are less "worried" and more "rubbing their hands together with glee."

Cespedes will be arguably the shiniest prize of the offseason. He'll incite a bidding war. And he may just get the $150 million he was reportedly seeking last winter, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe

There will be other bats for the taking, including mashers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays, Mark Trumbo of the Baltimore Orioles and All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos of the Washington Nationals.

Encarnacion is 33, however, and Bautista is 36. Trumbo is 30 and hit 47 home runs for the O's, but he's defensively limited and best suited as a designated hitter.

Ramos is 29 and coming off a career year but is recovering from a late-season torn ACL that may have cost the Nats a deeper postseason run and almost surely cost Ramos years and cash.

Ian Desmond had a nice comeback campaign with the Texas Rangers and can play the infield and outfield, but he's only one year removed from a dismal season with the Nationals. 

Enter Cespedes. He has what offense-starved franchises crave.

Cespedes posted a .280/.354/.530 slash line with 31 homers and earned a second career All-Star nod. And while his minus-three defensive runs saved suggest he's not an elite defender, he has a howitzer arm and won a Gold Glove in 2015.

Last year, while Cespedes "settled" for a robust one-year payday and bet on himself with the opt-out, the Chicago Cubs handed Jason Heyward eight years and $184 million. Justin Upton got six years and $132.75 million from the Detroit Tigers.

Heyward was 26 years old at the time, and Upton was 28. One year in, neither of those contracts looks great. Heyward (.230/.306/.631), in particular, was largely a disappointment for the Cubs.

Even at age 31, however, Cespedes should be able to command those types of dollars. It's the law of supply and demand—and you can bet there will be demand. 

In fact, it would be easier to list the clubs that won't at least kick the tires on an athletic, 30-homer corner outfielder. 

The San Francisco Giants have a hole in left field, where Cespedes profiles best defensively, and hit the third-fewest home runs in the big leagues in 2016. They also need to upgrade the bullpen and may allocate a hunk of budget for one of the market's premier closers—guys such as Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, none of whom will come cheap. 

Cespedes makes a ton of sense for San Francisco, though. He began his MLB career in the Bay Area, after all, playing two-and-a-half solid seasons with the Oakland A's.

Cespedes' power would slot nicely into left field for the San Francisco Giants, among other big-budget contenders.
Cespedes' power would slot nicely into left field for the San Francisco Giants, among other big-budget contenders.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

According to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, the Giants are "perhaps the leading contender" for Cespedes' services.

Ackert also name-dropped the Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Halos need protection for superstar Mike Trout and have payroll coming off the books, plus a barren farm system.

Cespedes makes his home in Florida, so the Miami connection is clear, and the Fish could move either Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna to make room.

The Dodgers have a glut of outfielders, including Cuban Yasiel Puig, but could be ready to shake things up after yet another disappointing postseason exit.

Expect the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to sniff around as well, simply because they can.

That's enough deep-pocketed suitors to send the price tag hurtling toward the mesosphere.

Any long-term deal carries risk. Cespedes missed time to injury last season, including a quadriceps strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list.

In the bigger picture, inking a guy on the wrong side of 30 for anything more than three or four years equates to paying for production now and a probable payroll drag later.

That's how modern free agency works. Cespedes played his hand correctly last winter. He kept his stock high with a strong stat line and is entering a seller's market.

In the immortal words of Fat Joe and Lil Wayne, now he gets to make it rain.  

                                                                                                                                                         

All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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