Wilpon: Mets ‘where players want to be’


Ronald Blum

AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK — Jeff Wilpon says he thinks Yoenis Cespedes’ decision to stay with the New York Mets signals a change in how the often-struggling team is viewed.

“We’re a destination now where players want to be,” New York’s chief operating officer said Wednesday, a day after Cespedes and the Mets finalized a $75 million, three-year contract.

Rather than sign a longer-term agreement elsewhere, Cespedes agreed to a contract that allows the slugging outfielder to opt out after one year and $27.5 million, when he could join what figures to be a free-agent market without as much top talent.

“He doesn’t view this as a short-term relationship or a short-term contract,” said agent Brodie Van Wagenen, who headed Cespedes’ negotiations on behalf of CAA Baseball and Roc Nation Sports. “While the opt out is there and it gives both sides some flexibility, Yoenis sees this opportunity as, one, to win the World Series in 2016, and he hopes that it’s going to be a bridge to an even longer-term partnership for the two sides moving forward.”

Acquired from Detroit just before the July 31 trade deadline, Cespedes had 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games with the Mets, helping them reach the World Series for the first time since 2000.

He gets a $10 million signing bonus, payable within 30 days of the deal’s approval by Major League Baseball, and salaries of $17.5 million this year and $23.75 million in each of the final two seasons. Cespedes gets a full-no trade provision and can opt out after the 2016 season and become 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.

“Clearly the player had a desire to be here and he had motivation to structure a deal that not only kept him here but also accomplished his goals of having him properly valued and properly placed within not only this market but also within his outfield peers across the game,” Van Wagenen said.

Before last week, Mets officials had said it was unlikely Cespedes would be re-signed. New York refused to offer a longer-term deal to a player who had just turned 30.

“I think when I began to feel as if we had a chance for this to work is when I asked Brodie the question: ‘Does Yoenis want to come back to New York?’ and the answer from Brodie was yes,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “Secondly, Brodie asked me a question, which was, ‘Are you in it to win it?’ As I recall, that was the exact phraseology. And I said, ‘Yes.’”

Seeking its first World Series title since 1986, New York has a powerful, young rotation that includes Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Cespedes is counted on to anchor a batting order that struggled before his arrival.

“I think this does make a statement about the here and now,” Alderson said. “It’s a clear acknowledgment that the present is important to us, but I think it does preserve a little bit of flexibility going forward that allows us to maintain a longer-term perspective on how we sustain success.”

Cespedes’ deal raises the Mets’ payroll to about $120 million for 14 players under contract, according to figures compiled by MLB. Deals with closer Jeurys Familia and second baseman Neil Walker, who are in arbitration, will add about $15 million, and the Mets’ payroll projects to approximately $140 million, up from just under $110 million last year.

Earlier in the offseason, New York acquired Walker from Pittsburgh, re-signed pitchers Bartolo Colon and Jerry Blevins and added shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, left-hander Antonio Bastardo and outfielder Alejandro De Aza.

“Until we signed Yoenis,” Alderson said, “there wasn’t a lot of sizzle in what we did over the offseason, but I think (there were) a number of understated improvements that will help us.”

Notes: Cespedes would earn a $50,000 bonus if he’s an All-Star, $100,000 for winning a Gold Glove, $50,000 for a Silver Slugger, $50,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $100,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $125,000 for MVP, $100,000 for second, $75,000 for third, $50,000 for fourth and $25,000 for fifth. … To clear a roster spot, the Mets designated outfielder Darrell Ceciliani for assignment.

Ronald Blum

AP Baseball Writer

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