It looks like the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes will finally come to an end this weekend.
The expectation among some parties in the talks is that Cespedes will make his choice in the next 24 to 48 hours, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney. And it appears the bidding will be between two National League East rivals.
As we detailed here yesterday, the Washington Nationals are making a strong push to land the free-agent outfielder. The Nats have a five-year offer on the table for Cespedes, sources tell Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, and are interested in structuring a deal for the 30-year-old that's similar to Max Scherzer's contract, which pays him nearly half his salary through deferrals, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports.
Not to be outdone, the New York Mets are also taking creative measures to try to lure Cespedes back to Queens. The Mets are discussing a three-year deal with the outfielder that would include an opt-out clause after the first season, sources tell Olney.
While Cespedes has prioritized landing a long-term contract this offseason, the Mets' shorter offer carries plenty of appeal. With an opt-out, Cespedes would be able to test the market again next fall, when the free-agent class is expected to be thin and when there might be more interest in the slugger than there has been this winter. The deal would also be a win for the Mets, who want the outfielder back but don't want to make a significant long-term commitment.
Another thing working in the Mets' favor is that Cespedes would prefer a return to New York, sources tell Rosenthal. "The lead agent for Cespedes, CAA’s Brodie Van Wagenen, remains in touch with the Mets, and the two sides are scheduled to speak again on Friday, sources said," Rosenthal writes.
While another team might still be in the mix, it appears Cespedes will either sign with the Nationals or Mets at this point.
Here are a few other rumors making their way around the league today:
Austin Jackson: Although all eyes are currently on Cespedes, the market for another free-agent outfielder could be picking up. The Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers have all kicked the tires on Jackson, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports. So far this winter, talks surrounding the 28-year-old have been quiet, likely a result of the bigger outfield bats remaining. Once Cespedes is off the board, expect Jackson and Dexter Fowler to become hot commodities. Jackson struggled at times with the Seattle Mariners last season and was traded to the Chicago Cubs, who might be interested in bringing him back "for the right price," Crasnick writes. The outfielder will likely land a one-year deal and could be a bargain if he's able to put up numbers close to what he did in his first few years with the Detroit Tigers.
Yovani Gallardo: Add another club to the mix for the free-agent right-hander. As we mentioned here yesterday, the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros are among the teams reportedly interested in Gallardo. Also considering the 29-year-old are the Colorado Rockies, Heyman reports. Unsurprisingly, the Rockies are trying to add to their rotation, which posted the worst ERA in baseball last season (5.27). Doing so is easier said than done, however. Because of how extreme a hitters' park Coors Field is, the Rockies have often struggled to entice free agents to sign with them. Gallardo, who gets nearly half of his outs on the ground, according to FanGraphs, would be an ideal fit, but he might prefer pitching elsewhere, especially considering Colorado's perceived status as a rebuilding team. For his part, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich downplayed the team's interest in the right-hander in an appearance on MLB Network Radio. "I'm not sure where that came from," Bridich said of the report. "It's no different than checking in on just about everybody."
Cleveland Indians: The Tribe have been quiet since signing Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, but another move could be coming. Cleveland is interested in adding a position player at the right price, sources tell Rosenthal, and David Freese and Juan Uribe are among potential fits. The Indians could use an offensive upgrade at third base and also might be looking for upgrades in their outfield since Michael Brantley is expected to start the season on the disabled list. As spring training gets closer, expect Cleveland to be one of the more active teams when it comes to bargain hunting for free agents.
Madison Bumgarner: Should the San Francisco Giants already be looking to extend their ace once again? John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle examines the situation, noting that the salary Bumgarner will earn in 2016 as part of his five-year, $35 million extension makes him the lowest-paid pitcher in the team's rotation. Of course, Bumgarner is also the best pitcher in the rotation, which could create a potential issue for San Francisco. Instead of letting things get to that point, Shea opines that it might be time for the Giants to consider tacking on a few extra years to Bumgarner's deal at a value reflective of what he deserves.
Travis Ishikawa: The Mariners signed the first baseman to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. With Seattle, Ishikawa will be hoping for a fresh start. "I haven't been with one team for an entire year since 2012," Ishikawa told Chris Haft of MLB.com. "I've kind of gotten used to that shuffling around, [but] I don't like it." Mostly known for his time with the Giants and his walk-off home run in Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS, Ishikawa said he's hoping he can prove himself if he can stay healthy. The 32-year-old said San Francisco was interested in bringing him back, but the situation no longer looked enticing after the team signed Denard Span.