The Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes in the hours before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in 2015, after which he went on an unconscious run -- hitting 17 home runs and 44 RBI during the team's final 57 regular season games. As a result, Cespedes and the Mets went 36-21, won the NL East and reached their first World Series in 15 years.
In the days after the World Series, Cespedes entered the free agent market and pressure quickly mounted for the Mets to re-sign him. He reportedly had been seeking a five- to seven-year deal, but teams were concerned about his hip and legs and he received only short-term offers.
Then-GM Sandy Alderson and then-agent Brodie Van Wagenen remained in contact all winter, despite reports indicating talks had been breaking down. In January, at which point no team had offered Cespedes more than a three-year deal, the Nationals reportedly popped up as a possible suitor.
According to reports, the Nationals were offering Cespedes a five-year deal, but with no opt-outs, no no-trade clause and the bulk of the money deferred.
I still contend reports of Washington's involvement leaked to national media by way of Van Wagenen's CAA office. The motive and hope being that such a report would spook the Mets and fans, who would predictably put private and public pressure on Alderson to bring Cespedes home.
Mets fans -- myself included -- were in panic mode about the idea of not just losing Cespedes' power bat, but losing it to our top division rival. Plus, because Alderson had yet to make any other significant acquisitions that winter, not re-signing Cespedes would have felt like taking a major step backward at a time when the organization should have been doubling their efforts to build on their World Series run.
In my 11 years (at that point) writing MetsBlog, it was the most negative, demoralized and hopeless I had ever seen my fellow fans, especially noticeable given the joy we experienced just a few months earlier. But less than 24 hours after news of the Nats' involvement emerged, the Mets, Cespedes and Van Wagenen, agreed to a three-year, $75 million contract. The contract gave Cespedes the ability to opt out after the first season, earn an additional $2.5 million and re-enter the free agent market.
"I loved my experience with the Mets last season," Cespedes said after inking the new contract. "As I entered free agency, I couldn't deny the pull to come back and finish what we had started last year."
In fitting fashion, Cespedes wore a cowboy hat and rode in to spring training atop a horse, which, along with other animals, he cared for at his local ranch a few miles from the ballpark.
Finally back on a unique contract, Cespedes hit a valuable .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs and 86 RBI in 132 games. He spent time on the disabled list in July and August with a strained quad, but returned in mid-August. Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes caught fire hitting in front of him and the trio combined to spark a second-half run that would land New York in its second-straight postseason for the first time since 1999 and 2000.
In the days after the Mets lost to the Giants in the Wild Card game, New York was wrapped in headlines and reports speculating on whether Cespedes would execute his opt-out clause and again become a free agent, perhaps this time getting the mega-deal he was in search of the previous winter. As expected, he opted out and reportedly started asking for a six- to seven-year deal. Interest in Cespedes was lukewarm, though, again due to concerns about the health of his legs. By the end of November, Alderson, Van Wagenen and Cespedes settled on a four-year $110 million contract.
Cespedes returned healthy to start 2017 after he and the Mets spent the winter touting his new, aggressive workout routine designed to help make him more agile, keep his legs healthy and avoid the disabled list. But Cespedes missed six weeks early in the season due to a hamstring injury, after which he experienced a major decrease in his ability to lift and drive the ball. He went down with another hamstring injury a few weeks later and missed the rest of the season after hitting .292/.352/.540 with 17 homers in just 81 games.
He and the Mets again touted his winter workout plan as he entered 2018. Looking mostly healthy, Cespedes played, but again struggled to get the ball in the air with pop. He was put on the disabled list during the middle of May, had an awkward rehab cluttered with conflicting reports about the nature of his pain. He returned for one game, hit a home run and was immediately shut down since he couldn't run without pain. It was announced shortly after that he would be having season-ending surgery on both of his heels.
Earlier this month, while again seemingly making progress in his rehab, Cespedes suffered a "violent fall" at his St. Lucie ranch and suffered an ankle injury that required season-ending surgery. He will be looking to return in 2020, during what will be the final season of his four-year deal.
In the time since inking his four-year, $110 million deal, Cespedes has missed 45 percent of the team's games, all due to his legs as the Mets have lost more games than they've won. In addition to having multiple season-ending surgeries, Cespedes has had to watch the team replace managers, change coaches, hire a new GM and cut loose all but six players from the 2015 World Series roster.
In those 119 games, Cespedes has produced 2.5 WAR, which is worth $21 million in free-agent dollars, according to FanGraphs.
To produce $110 million of value, Cespedes, at 34 years old and having not played in nearly 18 months, will need to put together a Mike Trout-level season in 2020, hitting at least .300 with well over a .400 OBP, at least 30 home runs, 40 doubles and a significant decrease in strikeouts. I'm a positive, half-glass-full fan, but there is close to zero chance of this happening.
That said, some of Cespedes's value to the Mets is not necessarily based in on-field production. This is important because it tells us that all of the above injuries, struggles and time missed can be erased and rewritten by one or two hot months in late 2020 that result in another exciting, dramatic postseason.
Is it $110 million of value? Is it the 10-12 WAR he was expected to produce when signing his current four-year deal? No. But if after next season, Cespedes's five and a half years in a Mets uniform include 400 or so games on field, around 100 home runs, three playoff appearances, two World Series and one helluva show, my bet is we simply say, 'Thank you," and brush his multiple injuries and surgeries under the rug.
However, as is usually the fine line between success and failure in New York, if Cespedes struggles to perform or remain healthy next season and -- in part because of it -- the Mets spend the summer sinking in the standings, Cespedes and his $110 million will be viewed as one of the worst contracts in team history.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!