The Mets have yet to formally announce the return of Yoenis Cespedes, who agreed late Friday to a three-year, $75-million contract. But that didn’t prevent a few of his teammates from expressing their relief on Saturday that Cespedes is coming back to Flushing and not heading to the rival Nationals.
“You hear him get an offer somewhere else and it’s a team you might have to play a lot, you don’t really want to face a guy like that all the time,” Jacob deGrom said Saturday night. “So we’re definitely excited to have him back on our team. In the little bit of time we had him, he was impressive. So a full season is going to be a lot of fun.”
DeGrom spoke Saturday at the BBWAA awards dinner in Manhattan, where he accepted the “Toast of the Town” award — along with Steven Matz — on behalf of the Mets’ starting rotation. Because of the blizzard, the annual event was condensed to a small ceremony limited to the honorees and their families. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins declined to comment on Cespedes because the deal is not yet official, but Matz was elated about the slugger’s return.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “We all saw what he did last year at the end of the season to spark that team. To have him back here for a full year, it’s gonna be my first full season, so to be able to play with him for a full year is gonna be something very special.”
In Virginia, David Wright said he heard of the Cespedes agreement at his charity event, with fans coming up to him to show the breaking news on their phones.
“It looks like there was some sort of compromise where it seems like Yoenis showed he really enjoyed playing in New York, and you want to play with the kind of people that want to be here,” Wright told Newsday during a telephone interview. “Those are the guys you want to your left and your right.
“He’s a big part of what we accomplished last year. It’s good to see him rewarded. And I think it’s encouraging to see the loyalty.”
Curtis Granderson, who received the New York Player of the Year award at Saturday night’s event, also was looking forward to seeing Cespedes over a full 162 games — and, he hopes, into October again.
“We got to experience him for 2 1⁄2 months last year and he did some amazing things for us,” Granderson said. “I know the city is excited to have him back, and even if he could do just half of what he did last year, it would definitely be a very big thing for us.’’
Noah Syndergaard, who was unable to make it to New York, seemingly channeled a re-energized fan base on Saturday afternoon when he took to Twitter to celebrate Cespedes’ pending return.
“Hey Cespy, You need a roommate?” he tweeted. “I’m really clean but don’t cook very well.” He punctuated the message with a pair of hashtags — “#bestfriendsforever” and “#mymancrushisback!!!”
On an otherwise bleak afternoon in which snow buried the region, Syndergaard’s message was one more sliver of light to come from the signing that came together late Friday night.
Cespedes signed for three years and $75 million, a contract that includes an opt-out after the first year. In doing so, he defied convention and spurned a larger offer, a nod to his desire to remain with the Mets.
Cespedes endeared himself in Flushing with a second-half surge that propelled the Mets past the Nationals and into the postseason for the first time since 2006. The Mets acquired him from the Tigers minutes before the trade deadline only because a deal for their top option — Carlos Gomez — fell apart because of medical concerns.
Even after landing Cespedes in July, the Mets anticipated that he would find free-agent riches elsewhere, a stance they maintained for much of the offseason. As his price dropped, industry sources expected other teams to show interest. But Cespedes’ desire to stay put steered him back toward the Mets, who struck a clever compromise. They insisted upon signing Cespedes to a contract that ran no longer than three seasons. In exchange, Cespedes took a contract with a higher annual average value that made him one of the highest-paid players in baseball. He will be paid $27.5 million in 2016.
More importantly, he received an opt-out clause that will make him a free agent next offseason if he chooses. He would rocket to the top of a middling class of free-agent outfielders.
Meanwhile, the Mets have made it clear that the connection is mutual. And they’re glad to have Cespedes doing damage for them again rather than for some other team in the NL East.
”He was so clutch,” Matz said. “I definitely think he’s intimidating. He’s a long-ball threat, but at the same time, he’ll get the job done and hit the ball the other way. As a pitcher, I’d be intimidated.”