Mets general manager Sandy Alderson quickly interjected: “God willing, and a no-trade clause, by the way.”
Acquired by the Mets at the July 31 trade deadline in 2015, Cespedes helped the team reach the World Series, became a free agent and signed a $75 million, three-year contract that allowed him to opt out after one season and $27.5 million. The slugger hit the open market again, then agreed to a deal that calls for a $22.5 million salary next year, $29 million in each of the following two seasons and $29.5 million in 2020.
“This is the third time that we have acquired Yoenis in the last 17 months, and it appears that two legal separations have only strengthened the marriage,” Alderson said at a Citi Field news conference Wednesday evening.
Cespedes was the second free-agent regular retained by the Mets this off-season. Second baseman Neil Walker accepted a $17.2 million qualifying offer.
The video board on the wall in the interview room featured a photo of the Cuban outfielder and the hashtag “YOGotHim,” a variation of last winter’s “GotYoBack.”
New York was 52-50 when it acquired Cespedes in 2015, finished 90-72 and reached the World Series for the first time since 2000.
This year, the Mets were 47-38 when he injured his right quadriceps on July 8, then went 13-23 as he hobbled and spent time on the disabled list. After he returned, the Mets closed with a 27-14 surge to finish 87-75. They made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time in team history.
“When Yoenis Cespedes plays for the Mets, the Mets win,” Alderson said. “With all of the analysis and mathematics that litters professional baseball today, that’s a pretty straightforward statistic and compelling one that I think everybody can understand.”
Cespedes had 31 homers and 86 RBIs in 132 games this year as the Mets earned a berth in the NL wild-card game, which they lost to San Francisco.
“The way I’m treated, just the way the fans support me and this team, it really makes this place feel like home,” the two-time All-Star said through a translator.
Obtained from the Detroit Tigers in 2015 for pitcher Michael Fulmer, the AL Rookie of the Year this season, Cespedes had 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games with the Mets down the stretch, helping them reach the World Series for the first time since 2000.
This year, New York drew nearly 2.8 million to Citi Field, its highest home attendance since the ballpark’s first season in 2009. The team’s live SNY broadcasts averaged 264,000 viewers, the network’s best since 2008. Cespedes’ star power was pointed out by his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen.
“He got a nice book from Brodie that showed us all the back pages,” Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said. “New York wants a winner. He obviously makes us win … and he obviously put butts in seats.”
While the previous agreement between Cespedes and the Mets was reached in January, talks had a much faster pace this off-season.
“Both sides had a desire to have this thing resolved sooner rather than later,” Van Wagenen said.
But a no-trade provision was essential to Cespedes.
“I’ve experienced that now several times with Oakland, Boston, Detroit and then coming here,” he said. “I didn’t like that feeling of just when I was starting to get comfortable with a team that I could be gone.”
To ease the strain on his legs, the Mets now intend to play Cespedes strictly in left field. Previously they used him in both left and centre — he was playing centre field when he strained his quadriceps this year.
“It will help keep me fresh throughout the season,” he said.
Cespedes was criticized by some for playing golf while hurt. The Mets didn’t press for any restriction on the links, but Alderson did offer: “There is no free club membership in the contract.”
NOTES: Cespedes didn’t engage a question about the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. “That’s just not a topic I’m ready to speak about right now,” he said. … With a crowded outfield that also includes Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares, the Mets will explore possible trades. They are looking for bullpen help. “We’ve come a long way from no outfield to an overcrowded one,” Alderson said. … To open a roster spot for Cespedes, the Mets traded pitcher Logan Verrett to Baltimore for $50,000. Verrett, a 26-year-old right-hander, was 3-8 with a 5.20 ERA in 12 starts and 23 relief appearances this year.