A source told MLB.com on Friday night that the Mets and Cespedes have agreed to a three-year, $75 million contract that includes an opt-out clause after the 2016 season. The deal, which has not been confirmed by the club, could allow Cespedes to hit the free-agent market again next winter, when he could be the top position player available.
Cespedes will receive $27.5 million in 2016 if he opts out of his contract. He also has a full no-trade clause. MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal reported Cespedes will be eligible for qualifying offer if he opts out after one year. The Mets would then get a compensation pick if they make him a qualifying offer and he departs.
Reports indicated that Cespedes turned down more money from other teams -- possibly the Nationals among them -- to return to New York.
The agreement is pending a physical, but once that is completed it will put the catalyst from the Mets' 2015 National League championship run back in the lineup. It also figures to make the Mets favorites to defend their NL East title, with a much better chance of returning to the World Series.
Cespedes, 30, hit .287 with 14 doubles, four triples, 17 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .942 OPS in 57 regular-season games with the Mets, following a July 31 trade from the Tigers. He hit .222 with a .584 OPS in the postseason.
Cespedes receives a solid guarantee with the three-year contract. The $25 million average annual value of the deal matches Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Hamilton for the highest among outfielders, which is a pretty nice consolation prize for Cespedes if he forgoes free agency later this year. But he certainly has plenty of incentive to have another big season in New York. The free-agent class next offseason is widely regarded as much weaker than this offseason's class, which means Cespedes could get the massive, multiyear contract he did not land this winter.
The Mets are the fourth stop in Cespedes' four-year Major League career. Since the Cuban outfielder signed with the A's in 2012, he has been traded three times, first from Oakland to Boston at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2014, then again to Detroit the following offseason before eventually landing in New York last July.
Last season, with the Tigers and Mets, was his best as a Major Leaguer. He notched career highs in home runs (35), doubles (42), RBIs (105), slugging (.542) and OPS (.870), and became the first player since Matt Holliday in 2007 to record at least 35 homers, 40 doubles and five triples in a single season.
Cespedes has totaled at least 20 home runs and 80 RBIs in each of his four big league seasons and is a .271/.319/.486 career hitter.
Looking ahead, Cespedes must continue to supply 30-homer pop to maximize his value, as he lacks the plate discipline to reach base at a high rate. But considering that he logged a career-high HR/FB rate (18.6) last season, the 30-year-old is a candidate for power regression in '16. Still, as the centerpiece of the Mets' lineup, Cespedes is a solid second outfielder for mixed-league squads.
One interesting aspect of this signing is the inevitable trickle-down effect. Cespedes will be a lineup regular, as will Curtis Granderson. The Mets seem likely to use Cespedes in center field, so they can keep prized prospect Michael Conforto in left field and relegate both Juan Lagares and Alejandro De Aza to reserve roles. But if the club decides that Cespedes is best suited for left, Lagares and De Aza could share time in center.