NEW YORK -- Almost immediately upon arriving in Flushing at the 2015 Trade Deadline, Yoenis Cespedes transformed the franchise and its expectations. With Cespedes on board, the Mets morphed from playoff hopefuls to pennant contenders, earning consecutive postseason berths for just the second time in franchise history.
Now, with their championship window still seemingly open, the Mets have extended their relationship with their most productive position player, agreeing on Tuesday to a four-year, $110 million contract with Cespedes.
The Mets confirmed the deal in a news conference on Wednesday.
"This is the third time that we have acquired Yoenis in the last 18 months. And it appears the two legal separations have only strengthened the marriage," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "The last two years, give or take, in Mets history have been about winning. And it has been clear that when Yoenis Cespedes plays for the Mets, the Mets win."
"I believe that the atmosphere of this team, the desire for this team to win, the friendships among this team, and of course the fans, the way they support you, it was just somewhere I knew I wanted to be back," Cespedes said through a translator on Wednesday. "I think just the way the teammates received me with open arms made me feel very welcome, and the confidence the manager seemed to put in me, it really made this place feel like home."
The baseball world spent Tuesday spinning over the mathematics of Cespedes' new contract. The deal's average annual value of $27.5 million is not only the largest in Mets history, but also the highest for any big league outfielder, and tied with Alex Rodriguez for highest issued to a free-agent position player. Only Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who is guaranteed an average of $31 million over the life of his current contract, makes more.
The deal also includes a full no-trade clause for Cespedes, who originally came to the Mets in a blockbuster July 2015 Trade Deadline deal. Cespedes is due $22.5 million in 2017, $29 million in '18, $29 million in '19 and $29.5 million in '20, according to a source.
"I promise ... that my goal will be to bring back another World Series championship to my team, to the fans, to this organization," Cespedes said.
If only dollars and cents could describe his contributions. A good but unspectacular player after defecting from Cuba, Cespedes became a superstar upon landing in New York. In addition to his .282/.348/.554 slash line with 48 home runs in 189 games, Cespedes created a larger-than-life persona for himself in the league's largest media market. He took to wearing flamboyant jewelry and an electric-yellow arm band. He paraded his luxury car collection around the team's Spring Training complex. One day, he rode a tricycle to work. Another, he rode a horse.
Cespedes also polarized fans who questioned the wisdom of his mornings spent on golf courses, even when injured. But they rarely questioned his production. Cespedes ranked 13th in the Majors last season in Fangraphs' Win Probability Added, which factors the impact of his at-bats on the team's chance of winning, and he finished eighth in National League MVP voting. Over Cespedes' first year and a half in New York, the Mets went 106-74 with him in the starting lineup and an 18-23 without him.
"He's that kind of player," manager Terry Collins said this summer. "You expect big things each and every time he goes up. He's one of those guys people pay to see him play. They see him come up to bat and they know he can do something dangerous each and every time up. He's a special guy."
Though there is inherent risk in signing Cespedes, 31, to a four-year deal, the Mets avoided the type of five- or six-year commitment that general manager Sandy Alderson loathes. There was also little upside elsewhere on the marketplace for the Mets, who made Cespedes their top priority from the moment he opted out of the final two seasons of the three-year, $75 million pact he signed in January.
Now, the Mets must decide how to rejigger their roster, with features a cadre of home run specialists. In addition to Cespedes, the Mets have three left-handed-hitting corner outfielders under contract for 2017 -- Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto -- as well as righty-hitting center fielder Juan Lagares. The Mets may look to trade Bruce as part of an offseason plan that will also include some bullpen investment. One could play into the other, if the Mets use Bruce to land a reliever.
"I think it was important if possible to have things done before the Winter Meetings [next week] largely because we wanted to have some clarity about where we were," Alderson said, "so we could go into the Winter Meetings not necessarily from a position of strength, but a position of clarity; so that we had a narrower focus of what we needed to accomplish over those three or four days."
Over the first month of this offseason, the Mets shouldered aside those types of issues, preferring to focus on Cespedes. Signing him was a significant milestone for the Mets, who believe they are now well-positioned to make another deep October run.
Fantasy spin | Zachary Finkelstein (@Fantasy411)
With 48 long balls in 189 games with the Mets, Cespedes has found his comfort zone in the Big Apple. The Cuban certainly could have picked a more favorable home venue from a pure fantasy perspective -- Citi Field is relatively tough on right-handed bats -- but he will nonetheless command an early-round pick in 2017 drafts on the expectation of a 35-homer, 95-RBI campaign.
With a surplus of formidable options, the Mets may not be done configuring their 2017 outfield. In addition to Cespedes, the Mets have three talented left-handed-hitting outfielders under contract -- Bruce, Granderson and Conforto -- as well as righty-hitting center fielder Lagares, who is arguably best-suited for a platoon.
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.