Over and over again Wednesday evening, when the Mets made this high-profile reunion official, star slugger Yoenis Cespedes revealed the weariness he had felt as a baseball nomad.
As he smiled for the cameras and slipped on his Mets jersey once more, Cespedes talked about how fans and teammates had welcomed him. He reveled in the feeling he had finally found his rightful place.
“The way I’m treated, just the way the fans support me, and this team, it really makes this place feel like home,” Cespedes said through a translator, shortly after signing a four-year, $110-million deal.
Cespedes, 31, has long said he hoped for a return to Flushing. He has thrived since joining the Mets via a trade deadline day deal in 2015. In 189 games with the Mets, he’s hit .282 with 48 homers and 130 RBIs, helping them reach the postseason twice and establishing himself as a fan favorite.
Cespedes has been traded three times. He was tired of that kind of uncertainty, a point he drove home during negotiations. He insisted that his new contract would include a no-trade clause. “Full no-trade was a non-starter,” agent Brodie Van Wagenen said. “Without the ability to secure his future here, he wouldn’t have signed here.”
For the next four years, Cespedes can take comfort in knowing he will be a part of the Mets, a team that will be expected to compete for a world championship.
“I’ve experienced that now several times with Oakland, Boston, Detroit and then coming here,” Cespedes said of being traded. “And I didn’t like that feeling of just when I was starting to get comfortable with a team that I could be gone. So, [the no-trade clause] was very important to me.”
For all of his desire to stay, Cespedes acknowledged that a reunion still wasn’t a sure thing. He admitted that after the wild-card loss to the Giants, he wasn’t certain he would return to the Mets.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure,” Cespedes said. “But what I did know was a lot of my teammates and people in the organization, they were really rooting for me to be back. I didn’t really know for sure, but in my heart, that’s what I wanted it to be.”
Near the end, the Mets were one of about five clubs in serious negotiations with Cespedes. Not until the final 36 hours leading up to the agreement did it become clear that the leftfielder was returning.
“They had interest in bringing him back, they were willing to compete to bring him back, that they had the resources to sign him long term,” Van Wagenen said. “That communication was very different than what the communication was last year.”
Cespedes and the Mets wanted to hammer out an agreement quickly, rather than reliving last year’s protracted negotiations that dragged into January. Cespedes signed a three-year, $75-million deal, though he exercised an opt-out after the season to bring him into free agency again.
Once more, he wound up with the Mets.
“This is the third time that we have acquired Yoenis in the last 17 months,” Alderson said. “And it appears that two legal separations have only strengthened the marriage.”
Alderson said he felt “fairly confident” of the Mets’ chances of bringing back Cespedes. “It provided sort of a road map for getting this done,’’ Alderson said, “always being mindful that he had expressed a desire to come back, which I thought was honest, not simply for negotiation purposes.”
Familiarity helped speed up the process, and Cespedes and his camp essentially had a one-year head start after going through free agency last season.
“We knew he wanted to be here,” Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said.
For all of its pressures and pitfalls, Cespedes had found a home in New York.
“I said it long before this happened, that I wanted to be with this team, that I wanted to come back with this team,” Cespedes said. “And God willing, I will finish my career with this team.”
Added Alderson: “God willing and a no-trade clause, by the way.”
Verrett traded to O’s. The Mets traded righthander Logan Verrett to the Orioles for cash, the club announced. The move cleared a 40-man roster spot for Cespedes. Verrett, 26, was 3-8 with a 5.20 ERA in 35 games.