When Matt Ehalt of The Record asked Yoenis Cespedes about his opt-out clause and if he intended to honor all three years of his deal with the Mets, Cespedes flatly said, “Yes.” However, Bob Klapisch, also of The Record, cautions the Mets to prepare for the worst as each dramatic home run only increases the odds that Cespedes will at least be tempted by the open market.
With one of the weakest free agent classes in over a decade looming this Winter, Cespedes would easily be the top draw. Assuming Cespedes does opt out of his contract, he figures to be in much greater demand than he was an offseason ago. The Mets will try to lock him up long term, but here are 10 other teams that might attempt the same thing:
The team has a gaping hole in left field despite the steal recent play of Hyun Soo Kim. Also, the team’s right fielder, Mark Trumbo, is a free agent. Add in that Baltimore is a win-now team that thinks offense first, and there might be a match. However, the looming free agent contract of Manny Machado might cause the team to spend less.
Chicago White Sox
With the regression of Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, the team needs a bat it can count on. Austin Jackson is a free agent and Adam Eaton can shift to center, which opens up an outfield spot. Still, unless the White Sox offer the largest contract, one might question why Cespedes would want to spend his prime with a franchise stuck in mediocrity.
The Indians are one big bat away from a dominant team and have room to add in the outfield. Michael Brantley has been hurt, Rajai Davis is a free agent, and Lonnie Chisenhall can play other positions. One of those spots will soon be filled by prospect Bradley Zimmer, and unless they trust him or Brantley in center field, the Indians might be targeting that position rather than a corner spot.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Right now when you look at left field for the Angels you see Nick Buss, so Cespedes could obviously be a huge upgrade. He also would give the Angels quite an offense with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. But the Angels need pitching and that will likely be their top offseason priority.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Injuries and free agency have made corner outfield an area of need for the Dodgers. Tracy Thompson figures to be given one of the starting jobs next season, but the other is up for grabs. The question is whether the new regime in Los Angeles wants to give out a massive free agent contract after that strategy hurt this franchise in recent years.
The Athletics tend to do the unexpected and bringing Cespedes back would be unexpected. But the team doesn’t have much stability in the outfield or any big bats. But Billy Beane traded Cespedes away for a reason and if those reasons remain or if Cespedes doesn’t want to come back, he won’t be returning.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants are perhaps the Mets’ biggest threat to signing Cespedes. They need offensive help, and Angel Pagan, the team’s current left fielder, is about to hit free agency. The Giants also like to spend money and won’t be afraid to hand out a big contract.
The Mariners have the longest active playoff drought in MLB, so they’ll be using this offseason to see if they can get the team over the hump. Signing Cespedes would do just that and would represent an upgrade to either corner outfield spot. Cespedes, Cano, and Cruz would be as good as it gets in the middle of the order.
St. Louis Cardinals
With Matt Holiday holding a team option, the Cardinals could look to move on from their talented but injury-riddled slugger. If they do they might be in the market for a bat like Cespedes. But the Cardinals could also give the playing time to younger players like Tommy Pham and Jeremy Hazelbaker.
With Jayson Werth set to make $21 million in 2017, signing Cespedes would seem not to make sense. But it didn’t make sense last year, and the Nationals still tried it. Plus, if the Nationals could again steal one of the Mets’ best hitters, it would be a double whammy for their chances of winning the NL East.