ST. LOUIS -- The road to San Francisco, or D.C. or even the Bronx, is paved with good intentions. And that’s important for everyone to remember after listening to Yoenis Cespedes talk about the almighty opt-out clause in his current three-year, $75-million contract to mash home runs for the Mets.
We don’t doubt for a minute that Cespedes enjoys playing for the defending NL champs. He seems relatively happy around the clubhouse, and as long as Cespedes stays healthy, Sandy Alderson doesn’t interfere with his golf habits.
Both sides appear to have it pretty good. Cespedes gets his space, along with the $27.5-million salary for this season, a record AAV for an outfielder. And the Mets get one of the more dangerous run-producers in the game.
It would be a mistake, however, to give any credence to words uttered about an opt-out clause on Aug. 24. Because a decision like that, one that potentially has more than $100 million hanging in the balance, doesn’t get made before it has to, which in Cespedes’ case is after the World Series. And if it stretches to seven games, that won’t be until Nov. 2.
Sounds like a long time, right? The NFL season already will be half over by then. Geno Smith could be the Jets’ quarterback (sorry, just trying to create a diversion). The point is, Cespedes still has plenty of baseball to play for the Mets, who are knee-deep in the wild-card race at the moment. And so there is no right answer to the question of whether or not he plans to opt out come November. Better to commit to the uniform he’s wearing, no?
“I’ve said it before: My intentions of course are to be here for three years,” Cespedes said before Wednesday’s game, “and if I could spend the rest of my career with the Mets I would.”
But has he made any decision yet?
“Nope,” Cespedes replied. “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.”
His agents probably spit up their lattes Wednesday morning after seeing that Cespedes initially told the The Record of Bergen County, through an interpreter, he was going to remain with the Mets through the length of his present three-year deal. His quote didn’t leave much wiggle room. Cespedes merely answered, “Yes.”
That conversation, of course, was not done under oath, with Cespedes’ hand on a Bible. But for an army of Mets’ loyalists, intoxicated by any hint of his return, that’s all they needed to hear. And for the team? Well, it was preferable to Cespedes saying he was ready to bolt by the weekend. Otherwise, the front office wasn’t exactly popping bottles back at Citi Field.
From the moment pen hit paper in January, the Mets viewed this as a one-year deal, fully expecting him to test the market again this winter. That viewpoint hasn’t changed one iota. It’s why opt-outs exist in the first place. The back two years, at $23.75 million per, were a nice insurance policy against severe injuries or a plummeting spiral in performance. But Cespedes, who entered Wednesday batting .295 with 25 homers and a .936 OPS, has avoided both pitfalls, with 36 games to go.
The opt-out, along with the record first year, is what got Cespedes back to Flushing. To simply disregard it, heading into a winter where his primary free-agent competition is Jose Bautista — who turns 36 in October — and Mark Trumbo, would be illogical from a business standpoint. We’ll never say never. But that would leave a Himalaya-sized pile of cash on the table, which really is the prime motivating factor here.
“That’s why they play,” Terry Collins said.
Either way, Cespedes will be a very rich man. Enough to have a Lamborghini in every color of the rainbow. But this is professional sports — people keep score outside the lines, too. Cespedes saying that he intends to stay with the Mets isn’t much different from us saying we intend to go out for Italian — then switching to sushi instead. It’s not legally binding.
So with that out of the way, you can now return to worrying about Jacob deGrom and the next five weeks.