Last year, the Mets were able to wait out the market on Cespedes and eventually sign him to a three-year, $75 million deal with an opt-out clause after the first season. New York knows it'll have no such luxury this time, as multiple teams are already rumored to be interested in Cespedes, following his 31-homer season.
The Mets, Phillies, Yankees and Nationals have all been linked to Cespedes already in this early stage of free agency. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson met with Cespedes' agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, on Wednesday, per MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.
Cespedes is the Mets' main target, and whether they can sign him will determine what they do with an already clogged outfield. The Mets have three left-handed-hitting corner outfielders for three spots already: Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson. Signing Cespedes would likely force the Mets to trade Bruce and play Granderson in center.
The Mets are considering free-agent outfielders Dexter Fowler and Jose Bautista as backup plans if Cespedes signs elsewhere, according to the New York Post.
The Nationals offered Cespedes a five-year contract last winter. Unsatisfied with the total value, Cespedes instead signed a deal with New York that included a higher first-year salary and the opt-out clause. Washington is rumored to be pursuing him again.
The Nats would also face a logjam in the outfield if they signed Cespedes. They would likely have to shift Bryce Harper to center field and Trea Turner back to shortstop, displacing Danny Espinosa.
It's also possible Cespedes lands across New York, in the Bronx. Following a 2015-16 offseason in which they uncharacteristically signed no free agents, the Yankees are mulling spending again in an effort to return to the postseason. That includes considering Cespedes, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. The Yankees' current candidates to play right field, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, seem to have limitations -- and they will have increased payroll flexibility if they can trade catcher Brian McCann.
How about a dark-horse candidate? MLB Network insider Joel Sherman suggests the Phillies -- who could land Cespedes to accelerate their rebuild, much like the Nationals did with Jayson Werth in 2010. Philadelphia is more likely to acquire a player like Bruce, though, who is only signed through '17, according to Sherman.
The Giants and Blue Jays are also rumored to be interested in Cespedes, who won a National League Silver Slugger Award this week. The Giants haven't had a 30-home run hitter since Barry Bonds in 2004, while the Blue Jays will need to plug major lineup holes if they lose Bautista and/or Edwin Encarnacion in free agency.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.