NEW YORK — The Mets had spent the entire offseason leaving the strong impression they did not expect right-handed-hitting slugger Yoenis Cespedes to be with the team in 2016.
With their fairly modest payroll, they seemed to have no intention of spending $100 million or more on a deal for him, and it was almost certain that some other team would.
But after it emerged that the Nationals would be that club, with an offer to Cespedes of $100 million over five years, the Mets found a way to rally. Late Friday night, perhaps to the Mets' surprise, they were able to reach a deal with Cespedes that will keep him at Citi Field for at least one more year.
The deal is for three years and $75 million, but Cespedes can opt out of it after the coming season. If he plays with the Mets for only one season, he will make $27.5 million.
Cespedes was acquired from the Tigers on July 31 and became an instant hit in his new home. He launched 17 home runs in 57 games, powering the Mets to their first World Series appearance since 2000. The Royals won in five games.
It is unusual for a player to accept an offer for less money overall than a rival bid from another club, but Cespedes appeared eager to stay in New York. And if he continues to play well, he could actually end up making more money over the next five years than the Nationals were offering him.
The deal came after several days of almost fevered speculation that gave the Nationals, the Mets' biggest foes in the National League East, the inside track on signing Cespedes, a 30-year-old Cuban-born outfielder.
And had Cespedes gone to the Nationals, he would have joined forces with another Mets hero from 2015 — second baseman Daniel Murphy, who signed a three-year deal with Washington this month.
That would have meant that the two players who were arguably the best hitters in the Mets' lineup last season would be Nationals, a development that would have surely led to a sustained outcry from Mets fans long frustrated with their team's restricted spending.
DARVISH CLEARED: Major League Baseball determined that Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish had no involvement with his brother's gambling operation in Japan, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Sho Darvish was arrested in October by Japanese police on charges that he operated an illegal gambling ring that took bets on major-league games.