Yoenis Cespedes will be in the Mets' outfield in 2016 because of compromise.
Both the Mets and Cespedes made some serious but necessary compromises with his three-year, $75 million contract, which includes an opt-out clause after one season. While Cespedes would have preferred a record-breaking multiyear contract, he instead received an average annual value of $25 million, which puts him among the highest-paid outfielders in baseball history. He also received flexibility to pursue that multiyear contract following this season.
Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and Brodie Van Wagenen, Cespedes' agent, on Wednesday discussed the deal that many believe makes the Mets front-runners to win back-to-back National League pennants.
"Both sides remained committed to keeping an open mind on creative deal structures," Van Wagenen said. "Clearly the player had a desire to be here. He had motivation to structure a deal to that not only kept him here, but also accomplished his goals of having him properly valued and properly placed, not only within this market, but also within his outfield peers across the game.
"At the end of the day, he was very appreciative to the Mets for their recognition of his talent and validating him with a contract that had a AAV and an overall guarantee that, at least in his mind, properly placed him with the right value in the marketplace for the game."
The trio touched on numerous topics during a 30-minute conference call with reporters:
Cespedes loves New York
Both parties made it clear that Cespedes' desire to return to New York pushed them towards continual negotiations.
"This was an important moment for Yoenis," Van Wagenen said. "This was a place he thoroughly enjoyed. He was comfortable with the city. He was comfortable with the fans. And New York is also a place where he and his teammates achieved tremendous success. As I told Sandy, Yoenis has a real desire to continue that narrative and accomplish great things here."
Make no mistake, the opt-out clause played a critical role in the deal. No opt-out, no Cespedes.
The parties talked throughout the offseason and the opt-out always seemed to be part of those discussions, although the Mets did not necessarily believe they would ever reach an agreement with Cespedes.
"It did not come up at the end," Alderson said. "Look, from our standpoint, when you see the potential competition may be in the four, five [years], conceivably longer-term, you've got to be a little more creative, if that kind of term is not appealing. There's a lot of discussion about opt-outs, but we did feel that if this terms is going to be limited in some way, we'll have to address the AAV as well as the possibility of the opt-out because they've become -- at least in this market -- almost fairly consistently utilized. That was part of an overall structure that we had talked about in general terms well before Friday."
Said Van Wagenen: "We were talking to a lot of people. What was refreshing in this case was that Sandy was very candid. He was very direct. Some of our earliest conversations in November, we knew generally speaking what the conditions were that were important to the Mets. He had a pretty good understanding about what was going to be important to us. As both of us evaluated our options, we came back to each other and realized that there was a potential opportunity to meet everybody's interests."
But Van Wagenen also stressed that Cespedes does not want to make this a one-and-done situation.
"He doesn't view this as a short-term relationship or a short-term contract," Van Wagenen said. "While the opt-out is there and it gives both sides some flexibility, Yoenis sees this opportunity as one to win the World Series in 2016, and he hopes it's a bridge for an even longer partnership. While the opt-out is there, I think there's an eye to what this relationship could become."
If Cespedes opts out, he will be paid $27.5 million for just one season, but the Mets will also be able to make a qualifying offer, which would award them Draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. That was important to the Mets.
"That was part of the equation," Alderson said. "There will be value coming back in the event of an opt-out. It certainly wasn't the prime motivation, but on the other hand, it's part of what we had to evaluate."
Mets going for it
Alderson said the deal shows the Mets are going for it.
During negotiations, Van Wagenen asked Alderson, "Are you in it to win it?"
Alderson said yes.
"We recognize that we have a pretty good team," Alderson said. "But we also recognize that there was an opportunity for us to be a better team. I think this does make a statement about the here and now. But the way the contract is structured, it does provide flexibility for the future, both for Yoenis and some extent us, given the term of the contract. I think it's a clear acknowledgement that the present is important to us, but I think it does preserve a little bit of flexibility going forward."
"We had a plan, and Sandy and his team executed on that plan," Wilpon said. "The fact that a player of this magnitude wanted to be a New York Met … we're a destination now where players want to be. I think that's the biggest testament."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.