For the majority of the baseball off-season, if one had listened to talk radio or looked on Facebook to see the attitudes of the fan base of the New York Mets, one wouldn’t have been able to tell that the team had just surprised the baseball world by making the World Series after six straight losing seasons. One also be able to tell that they were still the favorites to win the National League East for a second straight year due to the strength of one of the best young starting rotations in baseball. All that would be known is that the Mets fans had lost faith in their team and general manager, Sandy Alderson, due to the fact that they had not spent large amounts of money to fortify a lineup that was still improved from where it was at the beginning of last season, all because they had remained steadfast in their belief that it was unwise to give a long-term contract to Yoenis Cespedes, the outfielder who Alderson had acquired at the trading deadline, and whose hot streak in the season’s final two months largely helped the Mets get to their first playoff appearance since 2006. On Friday night, after a long, drawn out process that saw their rivals, the Washington Nationals try to steal him away by offering him a five-year deal, Cespedes finally returned to Queens on the Mets terms: a three-year deal worth $75 million, with an opt-out clause after the first season. In the end, the Mets and Alderson played this whole chess match right, and did not panic into giving Cespedes a longer contract than they deemed rational, and as a result, they got the deal they had been willing to give him all along.

Mets fans have had a hard time believing in Alderson for the duration of his time as general manager, mainly because of what has been made public about the financial situation of the owners, Fred and Jeff Wilpon, who were caught up in the Bernie Madoff scandal, which led to the team being in debt for the last six years and resulted in them slashing payroll and relying more on their farm system than they had in the previous 15 seasons. This frugal approach led Alderson to believe more in player development than flashy free agent acquisitions, and directly resulted in the Mets current starting rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz, with Zach Wheeler recovering from Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom and Matz were drafted by the previous general manager, and on a team that was more reliant on star power and instant results, all three could have been traded while they were still unknowns for bigger name players that would have had an instant impact, but Alderson did not do this and instead added to this trio when he traded away RA Dickey after he won a Cy Young award, and Carlos Beltran before he hit free agency to acquire Syndergaard (and starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud) and Wheeler, thus giving the Mets the pieces for the current strength of their roster.

The frugal approach had led to an improved ball club even before the resigning of Cespedes, but all fans could see was that they hadn’t spent the big dollars that had been thrown around by other clubs, and that Daniel Murphy, hero of the NLCS, had been allowed to leave and sign with the rival Nationals, whose desperation after collapsing last season has led them to attempt to raid the Mets whenever possible. Murphy was given the $16 million qualifying offer for one season, which would have doubled his salary from last season, but the Mets had no interest in giving a 30-year-old second baseman with limited defensive skills, limited power, and limited speed a three- or four-year deal worth $40-$50 million, so they instead traded pitcher Jon Niese to the Pittsburgh Pirates for second baseman Neil Walker, and instant defensive upgrade and one of the more underrated offensive second basemen in baseball over the last five years, and also improved their short stop position by signing Asrubal Cabrera to a two-year deal, giving them their best double-play combination since 2007, and pushing Wilmer Flores into a utility role, improving the lineup and retaining the flexibility from their bench that helped them immensely down the stretch last season. The move that also drew the ire of the fan base was signing outfielder Alejandro De Aza, a fifth outfielder, to a $5 million deal, which could become $7 million after incentives, which many wrongly saw as the Mets compensating for not bringing back Cespedes, even though a player like De Aza would have no impact on the team signing a player who be a starter in any situation.

This week put the final stamps on what had already been a solid off-season, as the Mets finally added an arm to their bullpen in lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo, and after much indecision, they got their man on their terms in Cespedes. Because fans don’t like giving credit to Alderson, they will say that Cespedes came back because of his ‘loyalty’ to New York and how much he wanted to stay in Queens, leaving two years on the table to take the Mets offer. Meanwhile the Nationals contact was for $20 million a year, whereas the Mets offer gives him $25 million a year, which becomes the largest annual value given to any outfielder this off-season, as Jason Heyward ($23 million) and Justin Upton ($22 million) both got more years but less annual value in their deal). Plus, if Cespedes has another banner year and exercises his opt-out clause after the season, he will have gotten $27.5 million in the first year and the opportunity for a larger contract for the 2017 season. We should all be that ‘loyal.’ In addition, Cespedes knew the states of the Nationals and the Mets, and he knew which team had the better chance of making the playoffs, and which team he would be the face of. The Nationals would not be a sure bet to overtake the Mets with him on board, and with Bryce Harper around he would never be considered the main guy or ‘savior’ the way the Mets fan base would think of him.

The fact is, even battling cancer this off-season, Alderson played this situation correctly from day one, knowing that in the end Cespedes needed the Mets more than the Mets needed him. They said from the beginning they would be willing to talk about a three-year deal, and never wavered from that stance, knowing no team would give him the years and the dollar amount he would be looking for. The Mets may not have been willing to give him the years, but the dollars were exactly where they needed to be to make it a worthy offer, plus the New York stage is simply unlike any other. Alderson knew this all along. Now, maybe fans will be willing to trust him in these situations in the future. Then again, it is the Mets fan base… probably not.

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