The Orioles level of interest in Yoenis Cespedes is now a bit clearer. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported on Friday that the O's have offered Cespedes a five year, $90 million contract that may include an option for a sixth year. If a sixth year comes in and the average annual value (AAV) remains the same, that would be a potential six year contract worth $108 million.
That hits the upper range of a Thursday rumor from ESPN's Jerry Crasnick about the O's interest in Cespedes. It sounds plenty like a serious offer to me, though of course not every baseball writer thought so. David Cameron of Fangraphs, who posted that tweet, earlier predicted a seven year, $150 million contract for Cespedes.
Although the situations aren't quite analogous, the O's seem to be approaching interest in Cespedes about the same as they did with Chris Davis. It's likely not a coincidence that in each case, the O's are the first team who are rumored to have offered a contract. That puts out a dollar figure that they're daring other teams to beat. So far, that hasn't happened with Davis. We'll see how long it drags out with Cespedes and if anything happens from all of this.
MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, who counted the O's as one of two favorites for Cespedes two weeks ago, on the fluid situation:
Sources: Cespedes believed to be weighing 5/$90m w/possible option offer from O's vs. one-year deal with Mets and become a free agent again.— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) January 15, 2016
If that's what it's coming down to, that is suddenly VERY interesting. It's a big difference to go from the first team to make an offer among a sea of possibly many unknown interested teams to being one of two offers being considered, and the only one that's offering significant guaranteed money. Is nobody else going to come in at $90 million, really? That does seem crazy, but maybe all of the contract prognosticators were just very wrong.
Cespedes could try for a monster 2016 and come out with more performance backing up his demands. On the other hand, a year later he'll just be a year older. He's already 30, so would he really get another five year offer in a year's time? He can't do a whole lot better than the .291/.328/.542 he just posted, though a second year of performance at or near that level would give some weight to his asking price.
Additionally, right now he knows he has no qualifying offer attached to his signing. In another year, he'd likely be tagged with one of those by the Mets, reducing his leverage on the open market. Something like $90 million or $108 million might be less than he was once expected to get and could still represent his best bet for career earnings.
UPDATE: Heyman adds this to the whole muddled situation:
to clarify, mets do NOT have a 1-year offer currently on table. theyd talk about 1-3-yr pacts if cespedes came off long deal— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 15, 2016
Note this doesn't necessarily contradict what Sanchez reported if we're really splitting hairs (use of "offer" to describe O's vs. "deal" to describe Mets in Sanchez's tweet.) There could be an understanding that if he decides to go with a short-term deal, the Mets are his team, and if he decides to go with a long-term deal, the Orioles are his team, regardless of what is technically "on the table" right now.
The idea of going 2-3 years with the Mets as opposed to a five year offer from the Orioles or any other team doesn't seem to make any sense whatsoever. So to me, this is some new information that doesn't change the picture based on what's already out there. (end update)
My standard comment remains that probably nothing will happen, but this is a lot more smoke than most rumors ever get, so stay tuned. We could be careening towards an exciting and terrifying future where the Orioles are capable of signing a top free agent for multiple years and way less money than was initially expected.
Sources indicate that Newton's laws of motion are expected to remain constant in this brave new universe. We do not suggest that you step out of a window to find out for yourself.