NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Yoenis Cespedes is back with the New York Mets to beef up their offense — for one full season, at least.
Cespedes and the NL champion Mets completed a $75 million, three-year contract Tuesday night that gives the slugging outfielder a chance to terminate the deal following the 2016 World Series.
The team announced the move four days after the sides agreed to terms, pending a physical. The 30-year-old Cespedes gets a $10 million signing bonus and a $17.5 million salary this year. He receives a full no-trade provision and the opportunity to hit the open market again next offseason, when it appears the class of free-agent outfielders will be much thinner than this year.
“I loved my experience with the Mets last season,” Cespedes said in a statement. “In a short period of time, my teammates and the fans made New York feel like home, and I truly felt embraced by the entire organization. As I entered free agency, I couldn’t deny the pull to come back and finish what we had started last year.”
That sentiment was echoed by Cespedes’ agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, during a conference call with reporters to announce the signing.
“This was a place where he thoroughly enjoyed his time in New York,” Van Wagenen said. “He was comfortable with the city. He was comfortable with the fans. And New York was also a place where he and his teammates achieved tremendous success together. As I told Sandy, Yoenis has a real desire to continue that narrative and accomplish great things here moving forward.”
Cespedes helped power New York to its first pennant in 15 years after he was acquired from Detroit minutes before the July 31 trade deadline. He had 17 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .942 OPS in 57 games with the Mets, winning over fans and new teammates almost immediately.
“It’s great to have his big bat back in the middle of the lineup,” manager Terry Collins said. “He really lengthens the lineup and makes everyone around him better. He was a great teammate, and I’m really glad he decided to come back.”
If he chooses to stay with the Mets beyond this season, Cespedes gets a $23.75 million salary in each of the final two years of the deal. If he terminates the contract and becomes a free agent, the Mets would have the right to make a qualifying offer, which would entitle them to a high draft pick as compensation if he were to then sign with another team.
Cespedes cooled off a bit in the 2015 postseason and played through a sore left shoulder in the World Series, batting .150 with one RBI and no extra-base hits as New York lost to the Kansas City Royals in five games.
Still, fans soon began clamoring for the Mets to bring him back to help complement their outstanding young pitching staff.
It was thought Cespedes might demand a five- or six-year deal in excess of $100 million — longer than the club was willing to offer. But the sides reached an agreement after other top free-agent hitters such as Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton signed elsewhere.
The rival Nationals were said to be interested in Cespedes after finishing a disappointing second to the Mets in the NL East. Washington did sign away free-agent second baseman Daniel Murphy, a power-hitting star for New York in the 2015 playoffs.
“Yoenis was a big contributor to our success last year,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. “Ownership’s ongoing commitment allowed us to bring back the right player at the right time to put us in a position to defend our NL East crown.”
During Wednesday’s conference call, Alderson recalled the moment it started to become clear that the Mets had a shot at re-signing Cespedes to a deal they were comfortable with.
“I think when I began to feel as if we had a chance for this to work was when I asked Brodie the question, ‘Does Yoenis want to come back to New York?’ And the answer from Brodie was ‘yes.’ And then secondly, Brodie asked me a question, which was, ‘Are you in it to win it?’ … And I said ‘yes.'”
Cespedes batted a combined .291 with 35 homers and 105 RBIs for the Tigers and Mets last season. He won an AL Gold Glove for his 99 games in left field with Detroit.
After the trade, Cespedes started 39 regular-season games in center field for the Mets and 14 in left. He figures to have a similar role this year, giving New York the flexibility to platoon 2014 Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares in center and promising youngster Michael Conforto in left.
A flashy player from Cuba with speed and a strong arm, Cespedes was a 2014 All-Star with Oakland. He has an .805 career OPS and 106 home runs in four major league seasons with Oakland, Boston, Detroit and the Mets. He also has won the All-Star Home Run Derby twice, including in 2013 at Citi Field.
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