WASHINGTON - The Mets' chances of signing Yoenis Cespedes slightly improved Tuesday thanks to a change to a tricky clause in his contract.
But perhaps the biggest barrier remains, with the Cuban outfielder still expected by industry executives to fetch a long-term deal worth anywhere from $120 million to $150 million.
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General manager Sandy Alderson confirmed the contractual change -- first reported by the New York Post -- though he declined to comment on the Mets' plans regarding an extension for Cespedes.
Ultimately, the adjustment helps both sides, with the Mets granted more time to negotiate and Cespedes given one more suitor to bid for his services.
Under the old contract, the Mets would have effectively been restricted from trying to sign Cespedes once the free-agent period started five days after the World Series. The only avenue to keeping him would have been agreeing to an extension before he could test the open market, an unlikely scenario considering his potential earning power.
Now, the Mets can make an offer to Cespedes once free agency begins, no different from most other players that typically enter the market.
Cespedes, who turns 30 in October, is hitting .307 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs since the Mets acquired him from the Tigers just before the trade deadline. He went 1-for-5 last night but hit a three-run double during the Mets' six-run seventh.
Cespedes' agents at CAA/Roc Nation, according to sources, were the driving force behind the change. Alderson said the adjustment was approved by Major League Baseball and the players union.
Former Royals outfielder Nori Aoki was granted a similar exception.
Even with the change, Cespedes is not eligible to receive a qualifying offer, meaning the Mets would not be entitled to a draft pick as compensation if the outfielder signs elsewhere.
Cespedes' original contract would have called for the Mets to release him at season's end, making him a free agent. But by rule, released players can't re-sign with the team that granted their release until May 15 of the following year, which created the unusual barrier for the Mets.