NEW YORK -- Despite an offseason spent downplaying their interest in Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets have not completely discounted the long-shot possibility of bringing him back.If Cespedes is willing to sign a one-year deal, the Mets are willing to talk, according to multiple people briefed on the situation. But the
NEW YORK -- Despite an offseason spent downplaying their interest in Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets have not completely discounted the long-shot possibility of bringing him back.
If Cespedes is willing to sign a one-year deal, the Mets are willing to talk, according to multiple people briefed on the situation. But the club and the industry are operating under the assumption that with five weeks left until the start of Spring Training, Cespedes will still almost certainly command a multiyear contract.
The Mets have not commented on the situation, and executives around the game consider it extremely unlikely that Cespedes will cease his search for a multiyear deal. The outfielder told ESPN Deportes late last season that he was seeking a six-year pact.
For now, the Mets consider Cespedes' lingering availability nothing more than a door cracked open. The Mets have been frank all offseason regarding their non-pursuit of Cespedes, stating at multiple points that they consider his return to Flushing unlikely. General manager Sandy Alderson went as far as to defend his front office's strategy publicly last week, saying that the notion of the Mets not spending enough on payroll is "tied up in the populism involving Yoenis Cespedes."
"The idea that we're not investing in the team I think is really misplaced," Alderson said, adding that he expects the Mets to end 2016 with a payroll of around $115 million to $120 million.
• Hot Stove Tracker: Free Agents & Trades
Much of that money has gone to offseason acquisitions Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alejandro De Aza and Bartolo Colon, while most of the rest will fund arbitration raises for Matt Harvey, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia and a half-dozen others. The Mets do have some wiggle room in their budget, which they plan to spend on a right-handed-hitting outfielder. But that almost certainly won't be Cespedes, with cheaper role players, such as Ryan Raburn, Chris Denorfia and Delmon Young, available on the open market.
Still, until Cespedes finds a new home, speculation will linger. Massively popular in Queens, Cespedes won the hearts of countless Mets fans when he hit 17 homers over a 31-game span from mid-August through mid-September, pushing the club toward its first playoff berth in nine years.
Alderson described the Mets' Trade Deadline pursuit of Cespedes as trying to fit "a square peg in a round hole," given the team's need for a center fielder at the time and Cespedes' lack of recent history there. Despite some strong -- albeit inconsistent -- play in center from Cespedes, the Mets still feel that way, knowing they would need him to man that position for at least two more seasons. Right fielder Curtis Granderson's contract is not up until after 2017, and left fielder Michael Conforto projects to stay at that position for another six years or more.
"For two months or three months, it may make sense," Alderson said of a Cespedes deal. "For five years or six years, it doesn't make a lot of sense to try to do that. We had the right fit [at the Trade Deadline]. If we had the right, healthy player in the right position, it might be a very different story for us. This isn't about inching up on team improvement. This is about trying to be thoughtful about it, but also realistic -- trying to improve the team in ways that we can."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.