After missing all of 2019 while recovering from multiple heel surgeries and a fractured right ankle, Mets outfielder Yoenis Céspedes is on the comeback trail, and other teams are taking notice. According to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, New York has received inquiries regarding the slugger's availability in trades over the past week.
A trade is a new possibility that didn’t exist a week ago, when Céspedes’ $29.5 million guaranteed salary was an albatross. As part of their settlement with Céspedes, the Mets slashed that number to $11 million, according to a source, with a provision that they can further slash it to $6 million if he goes on the injured list due to an ankle or heel injury. Céspedes can, however, earn back roughly half of his lost salary via incentives.
Céspedes' full no-trade clause gives him the power to veto any deal. But with free agency looming in a year, the 34-year-old may be open to waiving it to join an American League team that would be able to use him at designated hitter, or a National League club that could guarantee him more playing time than the Mets, thus allowing him to boost his value.
When healthy, the Cuban star has proven to be a potent offensive force. From 2015-18, he averaged 37 home runs per 162 games and produced an overall 135 OPS+.
The remaining crop of free-agent outfielders is thin beyond Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna, and both of those players are expected to get lucrative multiyear contracts. As a result, Céspedes could be an attractive trade target, despite his injury history.
Here are five potential trade fits for Céspedes.
Back where it all began? Céspedes started his MLB career with the A's and produced a 119 OPS+ for the club from 2012-14 before being traded at the 2014 Trade Deadline with a 2015 competitive balance round B pick to the Red Sox for Jonny Gomes, Jon Lester and cash. In 2017, Céspedes told the San Francisco Chronicle that he'd like to finish his career in Oakland while expressing his affection for A's manager Bob Melvin. Although the A's have Khris Davis at DH, the AL West projects to be much more competitive in 2020, and it wouldn't hurt to add more firepower.
The Marlins are in rebuilding mode, so Céspedes might seem like an odd fit, but a trade for the slugger could help garner more local support. Céspedes is a recognizable name, and Miami has a sizable Cuban population. Plus, his ranch is a little more than two hours north of Miami. He could also serve as a veteran presence for the young club after it jettisoned Starlin Castro, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson.
Texas is known to be in the market for an outfielder and has been connected to Castellanos. Céspedes would fill the club's need for a righty bat in a lineup that skews left-handed. The Rangers posted a .742 OPS vs. southpaws in 2019, ranking 21st in MLB.
Tampa Bay wasn't much better than Texas against lefties in 2019, finishing 20th with a .748 OPS in those matchups. The Rays signed Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to a two-year deal earlier this week, but he's another lefty hitter. Céspedes would bring some balance -- which took a hit with Avisaíl García leaving via free agency -- and add power to a lineup that ranked 21st in home runs last season.
Of all the clubs on this list, Chicago is arguably the one that needs Céspedes the most. The White Sox have an opening at the DH spot, and although they acquired Nomar Mazara to play right field, the 24-year-old is a career .231/.272/.361 hitter vs. southpaws and will likely need to be platooned. The club also has a deep Cuban connection that dates back to the legendary Minnie Minoso. The White Sox currently boast Cuba natives José Abreu, Yasmani Grandal and Yoán Moncada on their roster, with Luis Robert not far behind.