Report: Mets' Yoenis Cespedes Opted Out Because He Didn't Want to Play DH

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2020

New York Mets' Yoenis Cespedes reacts after striking out against Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Marcus Walden in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes reportedly opted out of the 2020 MLB season in part because he wasn't happy with the idea of being the team's designated hitter.

Andy Martino of SNY wrote about Cespedes' decision Friday:

"Based on new reporting, Cespedes' opt-out appeared to come as a result of a blend of persistent concerns over his contract incentives and displeasure over the way in which the Mets were using him. Both concerns converged on the morning of Aug. 2, when he abandoned the team in Atlanta.

"In recent weeks, Cespedes has told friends that he left because he did not like serving as designated hitter. He wanted to be engaged in the game as a full player and didn't enjoy only batting. Because of this, he has said in private, he wasn't having fun.

"In reality, the Mets received mixed signals over how much outfield Cespedes wanted to play. And inside the clubhouse, it was also obvious that Cespedes was angry -- paranoid, in the eyes of some -- and convinced that the Mets were trying to reduce his playing time in order to avoid hitting his incentives."

Cespedes, 34, missed the entire 2019 season and a major chunk of the 2018 season with leg issues. He hit .262 with nine homers and 29 RBI in 38 games in 2018. The 23-27 Mets, currently fourth in the NL East, could have used his bat this year.

But according to Martino, Cespedes was already upset with New York after the organization reworked his contract after he had an encounter with a wild boar in Florida, which violated the terms of his deal. The Mets reduced his guaranteed salary in 2020 from $29.5 million to $6 million.

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On top of that reduction, player salaries were prorated because of MLB's 60-game shortened season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial changes reportedly left him "sensitive to any whiff that the team was trying to prevent him from reaching the incentives that would result in more pay."

He did receive a bonus when he made the Opening Day roster, increasing his salary to $11 million (before it was prorated). But he reportedly was irked after being benched in the fourth game of the season, and when he found out he would be benched for a series finale against the Atlanta Braves—his second missed game in 10 contests—he left the team.

The Mets had told Cespedes they were trying to keep him healthy by resting him periodically, according to Martino. However, Cespedes chose to opt out of the season, ending his time with the Mets (he's in the last year of his contract) and potentially his career in Major League Baseball.