Top free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is “torn” between signing a lengthy pact with the Washington Nationals or rejoining the New York Mets on a shorter deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
A report from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman late Thursday evening said that the Nationals were “pressing” to get a deal done with Cespedes. The team is reportedly willing to give the Cuban slugger a five-year, $100+ million deal and the talks are described as “serious,” per Heyman.
The Nationals’ reported contract offer would feature several deferred payments — much like the lucrative seven-year, $210 million deal the team gave pitcher Max Scherzer last offseason.
Despite the instant boost he’d provide for the Nats, Cespedes does not have a clear fit on the team. 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper, veteran Jayson Werth, and recently acquired Ben Revere make up the team’s current outfield. The Nats also have Michael A. Taylor in the outfield mix.
Therefore, signing Cespedes would require the Nats to either trade an outfielder whose last name isn’t Harper or figure out a strategic way to keep all of those outfielders in the lineup consistently. Also, as ESPN’s Buster Olney points out, Cespedes would be a tremendous upgrade over Werth.
Re: Cespedes — Jayson Werth has missed 203 games over the last four seasons, hit.221/.302 OBP in ’15, and he’ll be 37 next May.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 21, 2016
If Cespedes were to sign with Washington, the Nats would add their second former New York Met of the offseason, having already inked second baseman and 2015 MLB Postseason hero Daniel Murphy.
However, Rosenthal is reporting that Cespedes prefers to return to the Mets — a team he led to its first World Series berth since 2000 last season. In 57 games after a midseason trade from the Detroit Tigers, Cespedes hit.287 with 17 HR and 44 RBI with the Mets. Despite that success, the team is still not willing to go beyond a three-year commitment to the All-Star outfielder.
Rosenthal also added that Cespedes’ representatives will meet with the team later today. Once that meeting is completed, Cespedes’ future should be clearer.
Newsday supplemented the news by reporting that the Mets are holding firm on their potential contract offer. The team has “maintained contact with Cespedes’ agents at Roc Nation Sports,” but does not want to give the 30-year-old the longer contract he seeks. In fact, the team has not made a formal offer to Cespedes yet and is waiting on him to express willingness to take a three-year pact first.
Shortly after he was traded to the Mets last season, Cespedes toldESPN through an interpreter that he’d like to remain with Mets for a long time.
“This is something I can’t control. I don’t know what the front office is thinking about. But with what I see so far, I would love for everything to work out and stay as a Met for a long, long time, because I like the atmosphere.”
“I’m not thinking about a contract, but I do know that I will be looking for a contract that is six years or more, has to be six years or more. We’ll see what happens.”
Much like the Nationals, the Mets don’t have a clear spot for Cespedes, either. The team has Michael Conforto, Alejandro De Aza/Juan Lagares, and Curtis Granderson in the outfield. If re-signed, Cespedes would have to play center field; where he registered -17 Defensive Runs Saved for the Mets last season, per FanGraphs.
Also, for a power hitter, Cespedes’ career.319 on-base percentage leaves a lot to be desired. Aside from his shortcomings on the field, a report from the New York Daily News said that Cespedes exuded some questionable habits in New York, including smoking during games, not taking on-field batting practice before games, and more.
Despite those rumors, Mets manager Terry Collins wants to see Cespedes back with the Amazin’s in 2016 and beyond.
“I don’t know where Cespedes is at contract-wise with anybody else, but I know he wants to come back to New York if he can,” Collins told MLB.com. “He’s a great player and we’d love to have him back.”
[Featured Image via the Associated Press]