The kicker in the Yoenis Cespedes deal? Michael Fulmer

Yoenis Cespedes 1 slice


In the days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Tigers were mulling the difficult decision to pull the plug on their slim chances of a title run in 2015, or waiting and hoping for their season to turn around for the better.

But the Tigers – at the time headed by now Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski – relented and decided to start dealing their premier and pending free agents.

Their sale started with deals that sent David Price to the Blue Jays and Joakim Soria to the Pirates. But with the trade deadline approaching they still had a coveted asset on their roster in Yoenis Cespedes, with the Mets in hot pursuit of the star outfielder.

The Mets ultimately surrendered pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa, but Dombrowski told Mike Vorkunov of the Star Ledger on Friday at Citi Field the Mets were very hard pressed to deal Fulmer, even though his place in a future Met rotation was never certain.

Yoenis Cespedes 1 sliceThanks to his splendid year with the Double-A B-Mets in which he posted a 1.88 ERA, Fulmer was named an Eastern League postseason All-Star and the league’s pitcher of the year in 2015.

“But we were also in a spot where really the key for us was Fulmer,” Dombrowski told Vorkunov. “And the Mets had tried a lot of different things and combinations and we just kept saying ‘No’. We just felt that it was a fair ask, although a tough ask. And they eventually came back and said they would do it.”

The Mets only said they’d do it with minutes to go before the deadline. If not for Fulmer, the Mets don’t get Cespedes, and according to John Harper of the Daily News, they were not going to be able to net Justin Upton from the Padres either, as they had pulled him off the block before the deadline.

Cespedes has a clause in his contract – which he originally signed with the A’s before the 2012 season – that states he must be released five days following the World Series. According to the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement, a team that releases a player cannot sign him to a new contract until May 15.

So unless his current team signs Cespedes to a new contract before the end of the five-day window, there is next to no chance he will be retained.

But Dombrowski said the Mets offer was good enough with Fulmer included that they would have done the deal anyway, regardless of the clause in Cespedes’ contract.

“I think if they would have offered what they offered we would have done that anyway because we didn’t know if we were going to sign him or not at that point,” Dombrowski said.

It will be fascinating to see how Cespedes’ future unfolds once the season ends. For the Mets, they have every reason to retain Cespedes, even if they end up paying an above-market value for his services. He is a transformational player, clearly capable of carrying a team for stretches of games. He’s the kind of player who would unquestionable require draft compensation this winter, as a player of his caliber – big money in a long-term contract – would receive a qualifying offer.

But if the Mets retain Cespedes, the cost only ends up being money and two pitching prospects, with no draft compensation (and associated pool money) required as part of the price.

In terms of determining the value of a future contract for Cespedes, that should most definitely be factored in, assuming they’re interested in retaining Cespedes, as they should be.

But even if the Mets make a very strong offer, will Cespedes risk not receiving stronger offers to stay with the club? Or, does he turn it down, walk away and lose a suitor which has the chance to win during the prime years of his new deal?

It’s not easy by any means, either for the club or the player.

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