The deal (yet to be finalized) between the New York Mets and Yoenis Cespedes breaks new ground in the length and scope of settlements that are reached with “premier” free agents, and depending on how it works out for both sides, it could bring about a trend that returns a level of sanity to long term contracts. If it does, baseball will self correct itself and the only remaining question will be – “Why did it take this long?”
Briefly, the deal is for three years at $75 million. Cespedes will be paid $27.5 million for the 2016 season.
At the end of the season, he can opt out of the contract and become a free agent all over again. Cespedes is not the first to sign with a opt out clause (Zach Grienke, David Price, and Johnny Cueto also have one), but he is certainly the most significant one given all the talk about his other “problems”. With a watered down free agent pool set for 2017, this could be the carrot awaiting Cespedes while the Mets get the benefit of carrying the stick for this year as they work to close the deal on unfinished business and win a championship. After all, who doesn’t like a win-win situation? But hold on……not so fast………
Historically, players have been paid based on their performance the previous season. This was especially true when one year deals were the norm and the only relevant question in negotiations was “What have you done for me lately?” With the advent of free agency, having a string of two or three good years laid the foundation for a multi-year deal.
However, Cespedes presented a unique set of circumstances that led to the deal that finally was reached. A few weeks ago, I outlined this in a post titled “The Not So Curious Case Of Yeonis Cespedes”
in which his “baggage” loomed as large as his performance on the field. Therefore, it was not surprising to see him as the last man standing in free agent signings. Of significance however is that the Washington Nationals raised the pot while the Mets simply elected to call – and not to be overlooked is the fact that Cespedes accepted the Mets offer.
Now, by no means is $27.5 million chump change money for this year and the Mets are paying handsomely for the privilege of his service, but the fact is that unlike the Orioles and their signing of Chris Davis and the Tigers gamble on Justin Upton, the Mets dodged a bullet. The “opt out clause” is a way to sit on the fence instead of plunging into deep water, and other teams will pick up on it in much the same way that the shift is now ingrained in baseball culture.
The next step is to extend the opt out to ownership. That one is destined to raise holy hell with the players union, but it would be inevitable if the Cespedes deal plays out to actually benefit both sides. Wouldn’t it be ironic then if a few years from now Yeonis Cespedes and Curt Flood were talked about in the same conversation as players who revolutionized the game of baseball………..