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Yoenis Cespedes opts out of the 2020 season

The Mets had a PR nightmare of a day leading to this announcement.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets announced after today’s game that Yoenis Cespedes has chosen to opt out of the remainder of the 2020 season due to ‘COVID-19 related reasons.’ The Mets were informed of this decision by Cespedes’s agent ‘late’ in today’s game against the Atlanta Braves.

This makes Cespedes the 19th player to opt out of the season thus far.

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said that the team had no idea that Cespedes was considering opting out. In a Zoom call with members of the press, Van Wagenen said “We support every player’s right to make this type of decision. It was surprising, without question.”

This comes on the heels of the Mets releasing a truly bizarre statement at the beginning of the game, announcing that Cespedes did not show up to the ballpark today and that they did not know his current location. This was later amended, saying that they did not currently ‘fear for his safety.’ It was revealed after the game that the Mets had sent security to his hotel room, and his belongings were packed and gone, which is likely the reason they claimed they were not worried about his safety.

Marc Carig of the Athletic summed up the situation concisely:

It is obviously good news that Cespedes is healthy and safe, and we cannot blame any player for putting their health first in this debacle of a season. Van Wagnen stated that he made the first statement in order to be “transparent” and “provide information in real time.” Van Wagenen added that his statement had no “hidden agenda” and that he did not see the public reaction. The press conference ended abruptly with multiple reporters still having hands up to ask questions.

Manager Luis Rojas said that he, too, was surprised by Cespedes’s decision, and that he attempted to reach out via text and phone call before the game. As of yesterday, he and Rojas spoke about getting Cespedes some reps in the outfield. Rojas does not know who alerted the players to Cespedes’s opt-out.

Cespedes, who is in the final year of his contract, has likely played his last game as a Met.

If Cespedes left without telling the team, that is obviously not a considerate or professional move. But for the team to release a statement that effectively frightened their entire fanbase and staff, simply as a ploy to shame Cespedes and/or his agent to reach out, is a very, very poor handling of this situation. The fact that the Mets traded for an outfielder at approximately the same time as making the statement also seem to be quite convenient.

We will have more thoughts on this as the story develops.