ST. LOUIS -- Thirteen months into his Mets tenure, Yoenis Cespedes continues to speak about New York as his long-term home. But Cespedes on Wednesday contradicted the notion that he has decided to honor all three years of his current contract, saying only that his hope is to remain with the Mets.
"I've said it before: My intentions, of course, are to be here for three years," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "And if I could spend the rest of my career with the Mets, I would."
Asked if that means he has made a decision to stay in New York, Cespedes replied: "No. My focus is just to play baseball and help the team win, hopefully make it to the playoffs. I let my agents worry about all of that."
Cespedes is five months into the first season of a three-year, $75 million contract that includes an opt-out after this season. Should he exercise that clause and become a free agent again at age 31, Cespedes would have a strong chance at earning significantly more years and dollars on the open market. Justin Upton, for example, signed a six-year, $132-million contract with the Tigers at age 28, despite coming off a season inferior to that of Cespedes.
But should Cespedes opt out, he would risk ending his time in New York, where his .292 average and 42 homers in 155 games -- entering play Wednesday vs. the Cardinals -- have established him as one of the game's premier power hitters. On many occasions, Cespedes has referred to his love of New York as a driving factor behind his decision to re-sign with the Mets last January.
Should he leave, the Mets' interest in retaining Cespedes may be limited. General manager Sandy Alderson dislikes giving out long-term contracts to players in their 30s in general, and Cespedes' recent unwillingness to play center field further dampens the Mets' interest in him; corner outfielders Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson all are under contract for next season.
As a compromise, the Mets could offer to rip up Cespedes' current deal, dangling an extension before he is able to opt out. But Cespedes said he has yet to speak to his agents in any capacity about his current contract.
Like all teams, the Mets are wary of committing to players in their 30s, understanding the increased risk of injury. Cespedes has hardly been immune to that, missing small chunks of time this season due to wrist and hip injuries, and a longer spell because of a strained right quad. Tuesday, Cespedes offered the Mets a scare when he appeared to limp off the field at one point, though he brushed that off as a flare-up of the heel discomfort he has experienced for years.
To prove it, Cespedes made a leaping grab at the wall in the sixth inning, tacking another highlight onto his All-Star season.
"It says physically, he's fine -- his leg's not bothering him," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But it also tells you what a great athlete he really is. We all point to the fact that he's a powerful guy, he's got great power. There's nothing he can't do on the field."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.