ST. LOUIS — Yoenis Cespedes attempted to quell a media frenzy, offering perhaps the only meaningful words on a subject that has inspired rampant speculation fueled mostly by wishful thinking.
Cespedes said Wednesday that he has yet to decide whether he will exercise the opt-out clause in his three-year, $75-million contract that would make him a free agent this winter.
The slugger’s declaration came after an afternoon filled with chatter about his future, all stemming from a report in The Record (of Bergen County, New Jersey) in which he reiterated lip service about remaining with the Mets that he first offered up in February.
“I’ve said it before: My intentions of course are to be here for three years, and if I could spend the rest of my career with the Mets, I would,” Cespedes said through a translator, reiterating a version of the innocuous line to reporters.
But when pressed, Cespedes swatted away the widespread implication that he will forgo his chance to test free agency and remain with the Mets. Instead, he offered an answer more typical for players facing a similar situation.
Cespedes was noncommittal.
When asked if he’s made a decision, he said, “Nope. My focus is just to play baseball and help the team win, hopefully make it to the playoffs. I let my agents worry about all of that.”
Cespedes’ star has risen to the point that even when he says nothing, it constitutes news. That impact was apparent Wednesday, when word of his “intent” was amplified through news aggregators that seemingly skipped over the only point that matters.
No decisions have been made.
People familiar with Cespedes’ thinking reinforced that notion. Although he remains happy playing in New York, there will be no meaningful conversations about his future until the Mets season has concluded.
The handwringing about Cespedes’ fate is justified. In a season defined by injuries, underperformance and unmet expectations, the Cuban star has been the Mets’ most dynamic player despite physical issues of his own.
The 30-year-old entered Wednesday night’s game hitting a team-high .295 with 25 homers and 64 RBIs. He spent a month in a hobbled state, playing with a strained right quadriceps that ultimately sent him to the disabled list.
But Cespedes has roared back since being activated Friday. He homered three times in the final two games against the Giants, and Tuesday, he made a leaping catch against the fence in leftfield to take away an extra-base hit.
“There’s nothing he can’t do on the field,” manager Terry Collins said. “He can run, he’s got a great arm. And you saw his athleticism last night jumping up for that ball. He’s the whole package.”
Cespedes has until after the World Series to make a call on his opt-out clause. However, the industry expectation is that he will use his leverage to test the free-agent market or negotiate a new deal with the Mets. Either way, Cespedes has positioned himself for the kind of payday that eluded him last winter, when his market dried up and he wound up signing re-signing with the Mets.
“If anything were to happen, I guess that will be something to deal with in the offseason,” said Cespedes, who also insisted that he has not discussed the matter with his representatives. “My mind right now is just on playing. There’s nothing that’s making me get away from my contract, but I just haven’t thought about it.”
So that leaves the Mets and Cespedes in precisely the same spot as they were before Wednesday’s flood of hype, headlines and hysteria. The opt-out gives Cespedes a hammer in contract negotiations, and it remains unclear whether he will swing it.