MIAMI -- Yoenis Cespedes, in all likelihood, is a rental for the New York Mets. Still, the initial positive impression has Cespedes believing he would like to call Queens his long-term home.
"This is something I can't control," Cespedes said through an interpreter Tuesday afternoon. "I don't know what the front office is thinking about. But with what I see so far, I would love for everything to work out and stay as a Met for a long, long time, because I like the atmosphere."
Cespedes' contract structure -- not to mention the Mets' conservative spending in recent years -- would appear to make retaining him beyond this season a long shot.
Cespedes has a clause in his contract that stipulates that he must be released by the Mets before the free-agency period begins if an extension with the Mets is not worked out by then.
The Mets already have Michael Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares signed for 2016 and Michael Conforto seemingly ready to contribute. So would they really overwhelm the 29-year-old Cespedes and his agent with an offer before the outfielder could test free agency?
Any player released after Aug. 31 cannot sign a major league deal with that same team until May 15 of the following season. So the Mets essentially would be precluded from re-signing Cespedes once he gets to test the market in November.
Cespedes’ original U.S.-based agent negotiated those terms with the Oakland Athletics before Cespedes debuted during the 2012 season.
Normally, players accumulate six years of major league service time before being eligible for free agency. So under normal circumstances, Cespedes would not be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.
But it is not uncommon for players with significant professional experience in other countries, like Cespedes in Cuba, to negotiate deals allowing them to be released sooner than six years in order to test free agency. Nori Aoki from Japan is another recent example of a player who negotiated those terms in his original MLB contract.
Still, Cespedes has liked what he has seen so far. He contributed three doubles and four RBIs on Monday in the series-opening win against the Miami Marlins.
"The first thing you can see is the pitching," Cespedes said. "Every team needs pitching, and I think we have enough pitching to go all the way to the finals. Other teams that I've been around, they scored four and they give up four. This team, if we score four with the pitching that we have, we'll be able to compete and go to the finals. The energy that everybody feels from the pitching staff and the hitters is a plus."
The Mets initially thought Cespedes would be confined to left field, but manager Terry Collins now is comfortable using Cespedes in center field against right-handed pitching. Cespedes made it clear upon arriving that center field is a position he enjoys.
"First of all, that was my natural position when I came to the States," Cespedes said. "Even though I haven't played center field for the last three years in the big leagues, that's my natural position. I don't want to be arrogant, but a good outfielder can play any position. And I feel comfortable and I'm going to do the best I can to help the team."