When the Mets announced in May that outfielder Yoenis Cespedes had fractured his right ankle in a “violent fall” on his Florida ranch in May, General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen insisted that his immediate focus was on his player’s health.
“We haven’t even thought about implications to the contract,” Van Wagenen said during a news conference at Citi Field at the time.
The contract was always going to be addressed, though. On Friday, the team and Cespedes agreed to an amended deal, according to multiple news media reports. Cespedes, who will remain under contract and was due $29.5 million in the final year of his contract, was said to agree to a significant reduction in his salary. ESPN reported that the Mets will save more than $10 million.
Cespedes, who has not played in a game since July 2018 because of multiple injuries and who was rehabilitating from surgery on both heels when his fall happened, had performance-based incentives added to his contract, as well.
No one knew the contract better than Van Wagenen. He was the one who negotiated it following the 2016 season, when he was Cespedes’s agent, securing a four-year extension worth $110 million for his client. Van Wagenen switched sides of the bargaining table in November 2018 when he became the general manager of the Mets.
Cespedes’s status for 2020 remains unknown. The Mets have been reluctant to provide a timetable for a possible Cespedes return. At M.L.B.’s winter meetings in San Diego this week, Van Wagenen told reporters that Cespedes had been swinging the bat for several weeks and had commenced his running program, as well.
The Mets have missed Cespedes’s power in the lineup. After being acquired from the Detroit Tigers just before the trade deadline in 2015, Cespedes demonstrated his full potential with powerful displays from the batter’s box as the Mets advanced to the World Series that fall, losing to the Royals.
The Mets subsequently signed Cespedes to a three-year contract worth $75 million. Van Wagenen and the Mets returned to the negotiating table again the next off-season, when Cespedes opted out of his deal following a season in which he posted a .280 batting average, hit 31 home runs and drove in 86 runs.
But he has struggled to stay on the field in recent years. In 2017, he missed games due to hamstring and quadriceps ailments. In 2018, he suffered a right hip flexor strain and went on the disabled list on May 14. His rehabilitation was hindered by a setback during a minor league game, and the team announced his season was over in July because of calcification and bone spurs in both heels. Even before the fall on his ranch, Cespedes was expected to miss most of the 2019 season.
Cespedes has been a colorful Met on and off the field. When Van Wagenen announced that Cespedes had fallen on his ranch, a reporter asked if Cespedes, who once rode a horse into the team’s parking lot during spring training, had fallen off a horse. Van Wagenen responded that Cespedes had said he was not riding a horse at the time of the fall.
The Mets failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons, and Manager Mickey Callaway was dismissed in October because of his failure to make the postseason. Carlos Beltran, the Mets’ new manager, has expressed optimism about including Cespedes in his lineup card this year.
“If he’s at his best, he’s a high-impact performer,” Van Wagenen said this week. “We’ll have to see how that plays out.”