If baseball is indeed dying, as has been forecast for years, then someone needs to tell Yoenis Cespedes.
The stove is downright piping, so be sure to keep refreshing Rotoworld's constantly-updating player news page for all the latest. And while you're at it, follow @Rotoworld_BB and @nate_grimm if you are on Twitter.
In what is perhaps the best indication that baseball is doing anything but dying, the 31-year-old on Saturday opted out of his contract with the Mets -- leaving a guaranteed $47.5 million on the table in the process -- to be a free agent for the second straight winter. Cespedes was due to make $23.75 million for each of the next two seasons prior to exercising his option.
The move, which seems crazy on the surface, should prove profitable for the left fielder in a weak free agent class. Cespedes immediately leaps to the top of the class, edging Edwin Encarnacion for the top spot. Those two, and perhaps Jose Bautista, represent arguably the only impact bats available, and while the class is strong in late-inning relief options, there is hardly a starting pitching market of which to speak.
As such, Cespedes should earn a payday of nine figures, even with draft pick compensation expected to be attached to him. The Mets have until Monday to extend a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Cespedes.
Cespedes set himself up for the big payday by hitting .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs and 86 RBI this past season. It was the second consecutive season he's hit 31 or more homers, setting a personal best with 35 during the 2015 season.
There are few teams that shouldn't have at least passing interest in Cespedes' services, including the team he just left, the Mets. A clearer market should develop in the coming weeks, but it might be months -- Cespedes re-signed with the Mets after the new year, on January 26, this past winter -- before we know where he'll be playing in 2017.
The only thing we do know is that he'll be getting paid handsomely to do it.
Two National League West teams have identified the managers who will be leading them into battle next season.
The Diamondbacks are holding a press conference Monday to introduce former Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo as their new manager, and longtime Padres manager Bud Black will be tapped as the new skipper for the Rockies on Monday as well.
Lovullo was viewed as a frontrunner for the job from the beginning due to his ties to new Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen. The two worked in Red Sox system, and Lovullo, 51, has been strongly considered for other managerial jobs in recent years.
“I think the Diamondbacks are very lucky to have him as their manager,” former Diamondbacks infielder Aaron Hill told the Arizona Republic. “I’ve had a few texts from (Diamondbacks) players already and I told them I couldn’t say enough good things about him. He’s a great guy, a great person and an intelligent baseball man. And he deserves to be a manager.”
It will be Lovullo's first major league managerial job after spending the last six years as a bench coach for Red Sox manager John Farrell. Before that, Lovullo was a minor league manager for nine years.
The other side of the coin is Black, who spent parts of nine seasons as manager of the Padres before being fired in the middle of the 2015 season. Black has a career .477 winning percentage at the helm and was the 2010 National League Manager of the Year.
“I’m really excited and really happy to hear the news,” third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “I think this can be a huge plus for us. I don’t know Bud personally, but I have heard great things about him. I’ve already talked to some of his former players from San Diego and all I’ve heard is great things about him.”
Both managers have their work cut out for them in a competitive NL West. Both are also inheriting flawed but talented rosters capable of performing better than their 2016 finishes. It should be a contentious and entertaining season out west.
Quick Hits: Dexter Fowler officially declined his $9 million option for 2017, making him a free agent. Fowler planned on declining his option all along, so it's not a surprising development. The Cubs will likely extend a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer to Fowler, which assures them of a first-round pick if he ends up signing elsewhere. Fowler is hoping for a long-term contract after settling for a one-year deal last offseason ... According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Blue Jays "seem ambivalent" about retaining impending free agent Jose Bautista. Bautista has made it clear he won't be giving Toronto a hometown discount while the Jays have no intention of overpaying for an aging outfielder coming off a down year. It sounds like the Jays are content to let Bautista walk and will instead pool their resources to try and keep 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion. With Encarnacion drawing plenty of interest around the league, there's a good chance both players will be wearing different uniforms next year ... Michael Brantley (shoulder) will resume baseball activities in December. Brantley is coming off a lost season and had a second shoulder surgery in August. There were reports in September about him possibly getting a late start to next season, but for now the Indians expect him to be 100 percent heading into spring training. Of course, they expected to have him for most of 2016, too. He's a big health question mark ... Cubs declined RHP Jason Hammel's $12 million option for 2017. They'll pay the right-hander a $2 million buyout instead. The 34-year-old went 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 144/53 K/BB ratio over 166 2/3 innings on the season, but finished the season dealing with right elbow tightness and was held off of the postseason roster. While he'll have to prove his health first, Hammel looks to be one of the top starting pitchers available in the free agent market, so he should have plenty of suitors lining up to give him a multi-year deal ... Heyman reports that the Mariners have acquired Carlos Ruiz from the Dodgers. No word yet on what would be heading back to the Dodgers in return, but it isn't likely to be much. The Dodgers would have had to pay a $500,000 buyout to decline his option for 2017, so by flipping him elsewhere, they'll likely add a low-level prospect and save themselves money in the process ... According to Heyman, the Blue Jays are not expected to extend a qualifying offer to impending free agent Michael Saunders. The Blue Jays will however submit qualifying offers for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Saunders was terrific during the first half of 2016 (.298, 16 HR, 42 RBI in 305 at-bats) but slumped badly after the break (.178, 8 HR, 15 RBI in 185 at-bats) and finished the year in a left-field platoon with Melvin Upton. Despite his second-half slide, the 29-year-old should have plenty of suitors this offseason ... Phillies acquired RHP Pat Neshek from the Astros in exchange for a player to be named later; exercised his $6.5 million option for 2017. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week that the Astros were looking to flip Neshek to another team rather than pick up his option, and that's what they've done. Neshek holds a 3.36 ERA and 94 strikeouts over 101 2/3 frames the last two seasons and will operate in a setup role in Philadelphia ... MLB.com's Jeffrey Flanagan reports that the Royals and Danny Duffy have engaged in preliminary talks regarding a contract extension. Flanagan says that "both sides have shown mutual interest," but there are "no firm details or proposals are on the table yet," so it's unclear at this point what a long-term deal might look like. Duffy is eligible for arbitration for a final time this winter after having a breakout season that saw him put up a 3.51 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 188 strikeouts over 179 2/3 innings ... MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports that the Indians are expected to make Mike Napoli a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer. Napoli hit all of incentives to make his contract this year worth $10 million, but it would obviously be a nice raise should he choose to accept the qualifying offer. He certainly earned a pay bump after batting .239/.335/.465 with 34 homers and 101 RBI for the Tribe this season. He just turned 35 and having a qualifying offer attached to him figures to hurt his market, so Napoli's best bet might wind up being to take the offer from the Indians ... Astros exercised C/DH Evan Gattis' $5.2 million option for 2017. Although he batted only .251 with a .319 on-base percentage this season, Gattis slugged a career-high 32 home runs while driving in 72 runs. He caught a bunch in 2016 after not doing it at all in 2015 and should continue to serve in a catcher/designated hitter hybrid role in 2017.