While the New York sports scene has been filtered with negative headlines on the Jets and Knicks for a better part of the past month, the New York Mets were quietly going about their business this off-season.
Once the season ended ingloriously in the NL Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants, the Mets barely popped up on the radar screen until Wednesday night. On Wednesday the Mets finalized a four-year extension with outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, cementing a long term deal with the All-Star after two productive seasons in Mets blue and orange.
As Mets General Manger Sandy Alderson put it, this is the third time the Mets have acquired Cespedes. They got him in a trade with Detroit in the middle of the 2015 season, and signed him to an opt-out friendly one-year deal last off-season. Many suspected that Cespedes would sign elsewhere. The Yankees were said to be interested. The Giants and Nationals were also on Cespedes' trail, yet the Cuban native wanted to stay in Queens.
"I said long before it happened, I wanted to be with this team," Cespedes is quoted as saying. "I wanted to come back. God willing I will finish out my career with this team."
At 31-years-old, Cespedes' contract is good for four years at $110 million with a no-trade clause. He will make $27.5 million a year, the most ever given to an outfielder in baseball history, and most the mets have paid in annual salary to a player ever; and this is a team that paid big money to Mike Piazza, David Wright, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, and, yes, Bobby Bonilla in the past.
Paying Cespedes this much is a huge shift for the Mets. This is a team synonymous with not paying big bucks, rather settling for the cheap fix ever since Fred and Jeff Wilpon were caught with their hands in the Bernie Madoff cookie jar. But times have changed. The Wilpon's are making money, and the team has been fairly successful the past two seasons. It is time for this team to go for it.
Cespedes gives the Mets relevancy. While the team is still unsure how its infield will look in 2017, and is still unsure if David Wright will ever play again, and unsure how Matt Harvey will bounce back from a season on the disabled list, signing Cespedes was a must.
When his head is in the game, Cespedes is a five-tool player. He has come off his two most productive seasons at the plate, 35 homers in 2015 and 31 homers in 2016, and has been a consistent .280-.290 hitter in Terry Collins lineup. The Mets needed Cespedes even more than he needed them.
The Mets are not done. Rumors are they will try to trade disappointing outfielder Jay Bruce at some point during the Hot Stove season. They will also need to heavily upgrade their catcher position, since Travis d'Arnaud has become an unreliable bust. The bullpen will need tweaking too with closer Jeurys Familia expected to be suspended by Major League Baseball for his involvement in a domestic violence incident with his wife. Who will play third base? That is anyones guess because of Wright's health issues. How about first base? Lucas Duda was not bastion of health either in 2016. His status is also uncertain.
So while there are plenty of questions for the Mets as they enter 2017, at least they have one of the best outfielders in baseball under their Christmas tree before the hot stove heats up.