If something about Yoenis Cespedes’ alleged fall at his Florida ranch in May didn’t seem quite right to you, know this: The Mets agreed.
As a result of that injury, the Mets and Cespedes reached an agreement that will drop his 2020 salary from $29.5 million to about $10 million but adds performance-based incentives that will give him the opportunity to earn back some of the rest, sources said Friday.
He also accepted reduced 2019 pay, which the Mets had withheld after he got hurt. Cespedes was due to make $29 million in 2019 but will have that cut nearly in half to $14.8 million, according to The Associated Press.
This settlement of a formal grievance, which avoids having the matter go to a hearing, was a product of the Mets taking issue with Cespedes suffering a non-baseball injury. It was approved by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. That the parties settled — and Cespedes agreed to give up millions of dollars that had been guaranteed — suggests that a strong case was held by the Mets, who could have tried to void the remainder of the contract.
Cespedes is in the final year of the four-year, $110 million contract he signed after the 2016 season. That deal was negotiated on his behalf by Brodie Van Wagenen, then the player’s agent and now the Mets’ general manager. Van Wagenen was working for Cespedes as a part of a partnership between his agency, CAA, and the one that still represents Cespedes, Roc Nation Sports.
Cespedes, 34, hasn’t played in a game since July 2018 because of multiple surgeries. Originally expected to miss at least most of 2019 after right heel surgery in August 2018 and left heel surgery in October 2018, he suffered multiple fractures to his right ankle this past May.
Van Wagenen, in announcing that injury May 20, seemed to express skepticism from the start. He said that Cespedes told team officials he "had a violent fall in which he stepped in a hole and twisted his leg and foot into a difficult position.” When asked, Van Wagenen specified that it “was not a fall from a horse,” which Cespedes is known to ride.
“Right now, that's the story from his standpoint,” Van Wagenen said then.
The day before he suffered that injury, as the Mets began a series against the Marlins, Cespedes made an appearance at Marlins Park, checking in with the team in person and continuing his rehab. Van Wagenen was on the road with the Mets that weekend, but after learning of Cespedes’ injury, he left to be with his former employer/current employee.
What Cespedes will be able to provide on the field for the 2020 Mets is a total wild card.
Van Wagenen said this week that Cespedes has begun his baseball activity and running progressions, the former of which became public last month when Endy Chavez — a Mets minor-league instructor — posted on social media a video of Cespedes taking batting practice.
“He's been swinging the bat now for several weeks and we're hoping that he can continue his progression and hopefully make progress as we head toward spring training,” Van Wagenen said Monday.
As was the case last month, though, Van Wagenen declined to express any expectations for what Cespedes might offer in 2020.
“We'll have to see how that plays out,” he said. “His activity level has increased, which is encouraging.
“We have to be smart and not assume anything from anyone, try to create talent on our roster and potentially try to create impact. If he's at his best, he's a high-impact performer. We'll have to see how that plays out.”
Thanks to his restructured contract, Cespedes has new motivation to get back on the field in the form of additional money via incentives — plus a career to re-establish with free agency looming next offseason.
Manager Carlos Beltran said at the winter meetings that Cespedes is looking forward to playing.
“There's no doubt that he's rehabbing, and he's putting all this effort to get back,” Beltran said Tuesday. “There's no doubt also that his injury is a tough injury. I just hope he recuperates completely from his injury and he's capable of getting back.”
With David Lennon