Yoenis Cespedes’ deal proves the Mets are big-market spenders again

Well, that was quick and easy, something unexpected for the top free-agent slugger on the market – and for the Mets.

Actually, that’s unfair – the Mets warrant praise for retaining their best players in free agency and acting like a big-market team again.

This is two years in a row they’ve signed outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and earlier this offseason they were perfectly content when Neil Walker, a second baseman coming off back surgery, accepted their $17.2 million qualifying offer.

Cespedes’ four-year, $110 million contract, pending a physical, is the largest by average annual value that the Mets have ever awarded a free agent.

What’s more, his $27.5 million AAV is the highest ever for a major-league outfielder, and the second-highest for a position player behind only Miguel Cabrera’s $31 million AAV.

Yoenis Cespedes
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t long ago that the Mets were hamstrung financially, for reasons apparently related to ownership’s losses in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Now they’ve retained Cespedes, who never wanted to leave, who embraces New York to the fullest, who is precisely the kind of free agent they should keep.

The Mets now will need to trade an outfielder, most likely Jay Bruce, to resolve a logjam that also includes Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares. But they reached the National League Wild Card Game despite a series of injuries last season, and they should be healthier and more formidable in 2017.

Even with Cespedes, the team leader in OPS, the Mets tied for only 11th in the National League in runs last season. Without him, they would have needed to find another slugger, perhaps through a trade, and there is no telling how that player would have fared as a newcomer in New York.

Cespedes, 31, can be streaky, but the Mets know what they’re getting. He opted out of his initial three-year, $75 million contract, and they were unfazed. He returns, and they remain a force in the NL East.