Cespedes agreed to a three-year, $75 million contract that includes an opt-out after the first season. He will earn $27.5 million in 2016.
The agreement made sense for both sides. The Mets avoid the long-term commitment they were unwilling to entertain. For Cespedes, it provides a high payout in the opening season as well as an opportunity to test free agency again next winter when the volume of high-profile free agents is far less.
Cespedes, who has played for four teams in four seasons, also valued staying with New York, where he enjoyed his teammates and reached the World Series.
"He doesn't view this as a short-term relationship or short-term contract," said agent Brodie Van Wagenen, the co-head of CAA Baseball, which negotiated the contract in a partnership with Roc Nation.
Wagenen added that Cespedes "hopes it will be a bridge to a longer partnership."
Said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson: "From our standpoint, when you see the potential competition may be in the four-, five- [year range] conceivably -- not knowing where the market is going -- you have to be a little more creative if that term is not appealing. There was a lot of discussion about opt outs."
The Washington Nationals were believed to be offering a five-year deal to Cespedes. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon insisted, though, that the Nationals seemingly being the primary alternative made no difference in the Mets' bidding strategy.
"We're a destination where players want to be, I think is the biggest testament," Wilpon added.
The Mets figured Cespedes would receive a long-term deal elsewhere. At the winter meetings in December, assistant GM John Ricco said it was unlikely that the club would re-sign Cespedes. Alderson echoed those remarks earlier this month in New York.
"I think that John's statement late last year and my statements as recently as the Hall of Fame announcement reflected our sense of the probability," Alderson said. "You always like to under-promise and overproduce. I think we had to be realistic about where things were. It was hard to read into the market."
Still, Alderson said the deal is not a surprise.
"I think perhaps superficially," he said. "But ... I think if you look at it, it's mutually beneficial. There's no question this all rests on the fact Yoenis wanted to come back to New York."