Yoenis Cespedes is still a free agent and the Mets have shown no rush to sign him to a long-term deal, leading Mets fans to flood the airwaves and Twitter-verse with pure anger directed at embattled owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon.
As of Friday Cespedes is mulling two offers: one, a lucrative deal from the Washington Nationals that would pay the outfielder $100 million over five years. The other, a three-year deal with an opt-out clause after just one season from the Mets.
As most know, Cespedes’ people have expressed that he would like to stay in New York, but the Mets reluctance to get a deal done and offer the outfielder a legitimate contract is not only befuddling, it gives fans an uneasy feeling that the team’s financial ills are still prevalent.
Currently the Mets’ Big Three of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are all severely underpaid, considering their quality of work at the Major League level. Harvey will make only $4.7 million this year, and is not a free agent until 2018. deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler are all making less than a million this season. Add closer Jeurys Familia’s $3.3 million deal for 2016 and the Mets are paying less than $10 million for the top arms on this ballclub.
To say that the Mets can’t afford a long-term deal with Cespedes and keep their starters at the same time is presumptuous. If the Mets matched the Nationals offer and paid Cespedes $100 million over five years, they would still have control of at least deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz through the life of that contract. Curtis Granderson, who is due $16 million this year, is a free agent after 2017. David Wright isn’t a free agent until 2020. So over time money would come off the books to pay the Mets starting staff, Cespedes and any other potential free agent.
The Mets reluctance tells us two things: 1) they were turned off by Cespedes’ horrific postseason. Cespedes hit only .222 in the playoffs, and was an automatic out come the World Series. His two errors in the outfield during the Fall Classic helped doom the Mets as well. While Cespedes is a prolific hitter with tremendous power, he does have a very streaky side to him. Is that worth a commitment of $20 million per season? That is a question that not only the Mets are asking, but also several other teams in the Cespedes sweepstakes.
2) The 3,000 lb. gorilla in the room is the Mets financial situation. It is no secret that the Mets are still struggling financially. Ever since the Bernie Madoff scandal broke in 2008, the Mets have been forced to cut costs in order to pay back their creditors. According to Howard Megdal of vocativ.com the Mets “have managed to get by annually by diverting revenue from their baseball and television operation into the financing of debt.”
The Mets payroll has dropped drastically over the years, dipping below $100 million back in 2013. The Mets payroll coming into 2016 right now is around $90 million. That’s pretty low for a team in a major market like New York. While the Mets say the Madoff days are long gone, the Cespedes situation make one wonder.
The Mets haven’t spent a major contract on a free agent (not named David Wright) since Jason Bay’s ill fated $66 million deal in 2009. Since the Mets have been gun-shy about going after top free agent talent in order to build up their minor league system. While that strategy hasn’t been wrong, not cashing in on the success of 2015 and signing Cespedes is a huge mistake by the Mets.
The Mets need to invest in Cespedes. This is a team that tremendous potential to compete at the top of the National League for the next 3 – 4 years with everyone still under contract. The opportunity to win is now. Like he was in July, Cespedes is the final piece.