New York made a major move Friday night, signing Yoenis Cespedes to a three-year deal. The teams seeking outfield help lost. But the Mets came out on top.
Winner #1: The New York Mets
Cespedes used the media and fans to tell the organization he wanted to remain in New York. He could have taken a larger and much more valuable deal from other interested clubs, most notably the Nationals. Instead, he took a short-term deal like some said he would.
The Mets were not the only team open to giving Cespedes a minor deal. Even teams that do not need another outfielder, such as the Marlins, had interest in signing Cespedes to at least a one or two-year deal.
Although Cespedes' new three-year, $75 million deal is linked to the highest annual average value salary for a free agent position player this off-season, the Mets structured the deal in a way that is in the best interest of the organization and its star outfielder.
The opt-out after one year gives Cespedes an opportunity to test the market again next winter, when there will be few established free agent outfielders available. For the Mets, it means determining where they are as an organization and moving forward based on an analysis of the roster.
If Cespedes does not have success in 2016, it is unlikely he will opt out of the deal. But if he regresses significantly, the Mets only have to keep him for two additional seasons.
General Manager Sandy Alderson and the Mets' front office won the deal simply by not changing their minds. After learning the Nationals were open to giving Cespedes a bigger deal worth more, the club did not change its position.
There were several other outfield options for the Mets to consider, but it never appeared as if Justin Upton or Denard Span were on New York's radar. The Mets got their guy without changing their offer, making the Cespedes deal a major win for New York.
Winner #2: Yoenis Cespedes
Let's make one thing clear: Cespedes is almost certainly getting more money than he deserves in this deal with the Mets.
If Cespedes opts out after a season, he is due $27.5 million. There is no deferred money and the contract also includes a full no-trade clause.
While the Mets signed the outfielder they sought, every part of this deal favors Cespedes. He gets paid well if he opts out and will likely receive another large contract next winter. The Mets do not have the right to trade him and he is playing for a club with a roster built to win right now.
Multiple clubs, according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, did not want to sign Cespedes to a long-term deal because they thought it would be too much of a risk. That alone makes the deal better for Cespedes. He can have success in 2016 and demand a larger deal after proving he is healthy and will not significantly regress. If he struggles, he is still getting paid well.
Cespedes is one of baseball's more streaky players and he has to know that. He can struggle for weeks at a time before becoming dominant again. It is part of the game, but Cespedes' bat disappears too often.
Although Cespedes did not receive the $140-$160 million deal some felt he would, he can thrive in New York and make himself one of the most valuable outfielders in the game.
Cespedes received a valuable deal and is staying where he wanted to stay. Overall, that too is a win.
Winner #3: Dexter Fowler
With Cespedes off the market, Fowler will likely emerge as the next best outfield option for teams seeking a starting outfielder. He has waited this long to sign and it might pay off.
Fowler, at 29 and coming off of a somewhat productive season, is unlikely to receive a deal comparable to that of Cespedes or Upton. But since he the next best free agent outfielder, at least one team will inevitably overpay.
Washington and Chicago were among the other clubs interested in Cespedes and both could now turn their attention to Fowler.
Fowler will not give any interested team a discount. He is all that is left and certainly knows it.