The acquiring of Yoenis Cespedes by the Mets became much more than it was supposed to be.
It was four o’clock in the afternoon on July 31st. The trade deadline.
Every Mets fan was checking twitter or watching SNY to see if the Mets would make a move to help their league-worst offense. Just as the trade deadline passed, there was news of a last-minute trade between the Mets and the Tigers. The Mets traded their top pitching prospect, Michael Fulmer, along with solid minor league pitcher, Luis Cessa, for the Tigers’ explosive slugger, Yoenis Cespedes.
Cespedes completely changed the look of the Mets lineup with his acquisition and put the Mets in a position to be legitimate contenders for a playoff spot. However, Cespedes’ contract was about to necessitate his release at the end of the season with no qualifying offer attached. The Mets would not even have a chance to negotiate with Cespedes and could not benefit by even getting a draft pick for his release. Ultimately, Yoenis carried the Mets to the National League Pennant. However, the question remained: Was 2 electrifying months of Cespedes worth Michael Fulmer’s extremely promising future career?
Michael Fulmer was putting together a dynamic pitching season and was seen as the next Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard in the Mets farm-system. He pitched to an 1.88 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 86 innings. Although overjoyed at finally getting that impact bat that Mets fans craved for so long, the pessimist inside most Mets fans questioned whether the Mets just dumped the next Matt Harvey for 2-3 months of Yoenis Cespedes.
Even while riding the emotional high of winning the National League East and the National League Pennant, every Mets was skeptical. Most Mets fans are realists and had legitimate concerns that we would still regret the Cespedes rental even after the Pennant was won.
However, what nobody saw is how the supposed Yoenis Cespedes rental evolved into something else. A series of events absolutely nobody saw coming back on July 31st 2015 transformed the Cespedes deal into something much more than a rental.
After the trade, Cespedes’ agents found an interesting loophole in his contract. The contract was to designed to prevent an offer from his current club before the 2016 off-season in order for Yoenis to avoid receiving a qualifying offer. Should he received a qualifying offer, it would decrease his potential value in the off-season as a team would have to sacrifice a draft pick to sign him. However, the MLB has a rule that if a player is traded mid-season, they would not be eligible for a qualifying offer from their new team. Since he could not receive a qualifying offer anyway since he was traded mid-season, Cespedes removed the clause in his contract effectively adding the Mets as a potential suitor when the off-season came.
Cespedes was welcomed by arguably the most passionate fans in Major League Baseball as a hero and an icon. He was symbolic of the Mets desire to win now and he was the bat that the best rotation in baseball deserved. He also became the National League’s hottest hitter and even managed his way into the NL’s MVP conversation although he spent under half his time in the NL. Yoenis became a beloved figure by all of New York.
Many people predicted the Mets fans love affair with Yoenis Cespedes, however, nobody predicted how much Yoenis would love New York in return.
On January 22nd 2016, the whole world learned just how much New York meant to Yoenis. The night of January 22nd, Yoenis took a 3 year 75 million dollar deal with the Mets with an opt out after the 1st year over the Nationals 5 year 110 million dollar offer. He did what no athlete usually does, reject guaranteed dollars. He wanted to return to New York.
Cespedes clearly enjoyed New York more than everyone realized. Enough so to risk his potential earnings to return for at least another year with the Mets.
While there is discussion whether the Mets deal will actually pay higher dividends for Cespedes in the long run due to his opt-out, there is one thing that everyone cannot deny: This whole episode could not have happened without the Mets trading Fulmer for Cespedes.
The whole narrative would have been completely different should Yoenis hit free agency as a Detroit Tiger. Should the Mets even be interested in Cespedes, they would most likely be outbid on a three year deal by the White Sox or he would have accepted the Nationals five year deal. Many things could have transpired but Yoenis Cespedes would not have been a Met in 2016. This is why the Michael Fulmer trade is still paying dividends for the Mets.
The return of Yoenis Cespedes to New York was only made possible due to the trade of Michael Fulmer. The trade allowed New York to fall in love with Yoenis and Yoenis to fall in love with New York. It also gave the Mets atleast a year and a half of Cespedes rather than just 2 months.
Michael Fulmer may ultimately be a great pitcher. However, his trade made possible the love affair that would transpire between the Mets and Yoenis Cespedes. Should Michael Fulmer not have been traded, the Mets may have not gotten the pennant and they certainly would not be top contenders for the 2016 World Series.