Yoenis Cespedes is going to be opting out of his contract any day now and will become one of the hottest commodities of this offseason. Early reports indicate that he once again in looking for a contract north of $100 million and he wants a five year deal.
Cespedes, 31, will be entering a very weak free agent class that will be headlined by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Cespedes himself. This is the biggest reason to believe that he will get a contract close to the one he desires. He also had a good year this year as he improved his pitch selection and had his best on base percentage (.351) since his rookie year, along with 31 home runs and 86 RBIs. Despite these numbers I do not think that he will be offered a five year contract.
For one, he did not get the big mega deal he was looking for last offseason. Following the Mets’ World Series run last year, Cespedes got his first taste of free agency and it was not kind to him. Yoenis was coming off of a 57 game stretch with the Mets where he put the team on his back and led them to the playoffs. His numbers in those 57 games were 17 home runs, 44 RBIs and a slash line of .287/.337/.604. He also won the gold glove in the American League for his work in only 102 games for the Tigers.
Cespedes showed in 2015 that he could play a capable center field for a team that had two corner outfielders already in place.
Finally, he had the advantage of going into free agency without a qualifying offer extended to him because he was traded in mid season. Yet Cespedes had to wait until late January to get a contract and it wasn’t the one that he wanted. His best offer was a predominantly backloaded deal from the Nationals until he re-signed with the Mets.
Some will point to a stronger free agent class last year as to why Cespedes did not get his big deal, but the top outfielders other than Yoenis were Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. None of those players were viewed as superior to Cespedes but they all signed before he did.
As Yoenis Cespedes enters this offseason, a lot has changed. He will enter free agency a year older and on the wrong side of 30, he has proven that he cannot play center field, and he will now have a qualifying offer attached to him as well.
History could very well repeat itself this offseason. Cespedes will go out and test the market, and when he doesn’t get the contract he is looking for he could end up coming back to the Mets to try and get something done. My prediction is that he either signs a contract that is nearly identical to the one he signed last year, a front loaded three year deal with an opt out, or the Mets or some other team gives him a guaranteed fourth year but not a fifth.