PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The unofficial job of team recruiter usually falls to Mets captain David Wright. In the past, he has been at the forefront of reaching out to free agents in hopes of swaying them.
This winter was no different. Though Wright touched base with Yoenis Cespedes, he took care not to flood him with messages. However, another member of the Mets stepped up to make a pitch: reliever Hansel Robles.
Cespedes signed his three-year, $75-million deal to make his reunion with the Mets a reality. When it became official, the slugger noted that it was Robles who did the bulk of the pestering.
“Just to sign here,” Robles said through a translator, summarizing the messages he sent to Cespedes. “Whatever it ended up being — three to four years — it will all work itself out. Just come back here because you’ll be happy here.”
For Robles, motivation wasn’t hard to find. He worried that Cespedes might sign with the Nationals or even the Yankees, though they were never involved.
Still, in the few months that Cespedes was with the Mets after his trade-deadline arrival, Robles said they became close friends. “He’s a good person, he’s a good teammate, and I think it’s a great bat to have this season,” said Robles, who learned of Cespedes’ new deal thanks to an alert he had set up on his phone.
Perhaps Robles deserves an assist for his persistence with Cespedes, who has turned an otherwise sleepy Mets camp into the Port St. Lucie International Auto Show. He has changed cars the way others change their socks. Thursday’s selection: a sleek, red Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione two-seater that retails for about $250,000.
The sporty coupe is just one of the toys Cespedes has taken for his morning commute this week. He arrived in a souped-up Ford F-250 on Sunday and Monday and followed with a Polaris Slingshot three-wheeler on Tuesday. He upped the ante on Wednesday with a Lamborghini Aventador, which a team staffer used to purchase a round waffle-maker (he doesn’t like them square).
It turns out he’s a creature of habit. “I just started eating them in Oakland,” he said of his affinity for round waffles. “And that’s what I’m used to.”
For those scoring at home, that’s roughly $850,000 worth of machines this week, and counting. Cespedes intends to unveil another one of his custom cars Friday, the first official day of full-squad workouts.
Cespedes tweeted a photo of a Jeep, which has been souped up by Alex Vega, the Miami-based auto customizer who has done work on the slugger’s impressive auto collection.
The flashiness hardly seems to bother the Mets, who quickly grew accustomed to Cespedes’ various quirks.
A few days ago, manager Terry Collins raised the possibility of asking Cespedes to avoid wearing his cap backward. But on Thursday, the manager backed off.
“No, I’m not going to mess with it,” said Collins, offering a statement more in line with how he’s approached Cespedes since his arrival last July.
Indeed, with Cespedes, Collins has adopted a low-key approach typically accorded to veterans.
“He’s come here working his butt off,” Collins said. “They were supposed to be off today and he hit. He came in, worked out and hit. He knows what he’s got to do to get ready.”