By: Joe Messineo

Could Yoenis Cespedes’ Contract Situation Backfire On The Mets?

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With just minutes left before this year’s trade deadline, the New York Mets pulled off a trade for the big bat that fans had been clamoring for all year. The Mets swapped with the Detroit Tigers to bring in slugging OF Yoenis Cespedes, moving two minor-league pitchers, RHP Michael Fulmer and RHP Luis Cessa, in the deal.

The deal looks great for the Mets, especially at first glance. The Mets avoided giving up one of their young aces (Zach Wheeler, who is sitting out this year while recovering Tommy Johns surgery, was mentioned in earlier rumors like the aborted Carlos Gomez deal). Since the trade, the Mets have taken over first place in the National League East and show no signs of slowing down. Cespedes could be the piece that puts the Mets over the top this year. A deep run in the postseason is entirely within the realm of possibility.

But what about next year?

The one major reason that the Mets were able to acquire Cespedes without giving up one of their young starting pitches is that Yoenis Cespedes’ contract situation hurts his value. Cespedes makes $3.7 million this year, which the Mets are picking up. At the end of this year, the outfielder will be a free agent.

Re-signing Cespedes for next year will take a lot of dough. The slugger will be 29 years old and coming off a strong season (at this point in 2015, only Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have more extra-base hits among outfielders than Cespedes does). He won’t be alone – Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, among others, are also going to be free agents – but he will be one of the premier options for teams seeking outfield help.

But Cesepedes’ inevitably high asking price isn’t the only thing that may keep him out of a Mets uniform in 2016. The other issue is a unique clause in his contract.

The problem is this: Yoenis Cespedes’ contract guarantees his release at the end of the 2015 season, and the collective bargaining agreement prevents teams from making qualifying offers to released players or re-signing them as free agents until after May 15.

What this means is that the Mets can re-sign Cespedes while he’s in their uniform and during an exclusive negotiating window that lasts five days after the end of this year’s World Series. After that, though, the window slams shut. Between the end of that negotiating window and May 15, 2016, every team except the Mets will be able sign Cespedes.

Simply put, if the Mets don’t have Cespedes signed within 5 days of the end of the World Series, they’re going to have to ask him to stay unsigned until practically the start of the season. Even more simply put: if the Mets don’t re-sign Cespedes within that short window, then they probably won’t re-sign him at all. 

The odds seem pretty slim. The Mets are notorious bargain-hunters, Cespedes is incentivized to see what other teams will offer, and May 15 is incredibly late for a player of Cespedes’ caliber to be committing (2016’s Opening Day will be April 4, less than a month later). Mets fans should enjoy Cespedes while they can, because re-signing him seems to be a serious long shot.

About Joe Messineo

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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