A dizzying Sunday surrounding the whereabouts and well-being of Yoenis Cespedes was concluded following the Mets’ 4-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves when general manager Brodie Van Wagenen announced that the veteran slugger has decided to opt-out of the rest of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns.
“First off, we support everybody’s right to make this kind of decision,” Van Wagenen said. “This is a challenging time for everyone and we will support him in this decision. It was surprising.”
Cespedes gave the Mets no notice of his decision, instead alerting the Mets via his agent midway through their game on Sunday. The Mets sent a security detail to the team hotel only to discover that his belongings had been packed and he was gone.
The Mets initially sent out a statement during the game first alerting of Cespedes’ absence. However, its vague wording raised concerns about the 34-year-old’s well-being.
“As of game time, Yoenis Cespedes has not reported to the ballpark today. He did not reach out to management with any explanation for his absence,” the Mets released in a statement. “Our attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.”
It was followed by a team source confirming that Cespedes was not in harm’s way.
“At the time we sent out the first statement, it was an attempt to be communicative in real-time,” Van Wagenen said. “We wanted to make sure we were providing you all in real-time information of his absence.”
Prior to Sunday’s matinee against the Braves, Mets manager Luis Rojas told the media that Cespedes was giving the day off while he was mired in a sizable four-game slump, going 2-for-his-last-15 with nine strikeouts.
He did not realize Cespedes was missing before the game during staggered batting practice.
“I am very surprised,” Rojas said. “We’ve had conversations regularly about playing time, where he’s going to play in the lineup, building him up in the outfield… This is definitely a surprise to me.”
“Soon as the game ended, I found out in the office. I don’t know who shared with the players as of now or how the news was spread.”
He holds no ill feelings toward Cespedes or the way the news came out.
“I’m not upset,” Rojas said. “This is just a really tough time.”
The decision all but ends Cespedes’ tenure with the Mets, which began in 2015 when he sparked them to a National League pennant. In the ensuing four years of a new contract with the team, injuries largely kept him out of the lineup, but the designated hitter rule carrying over to the National League this season allowed the Mets to get their slugger back.
He will be a free agent after this season.
“It’s disappointing for the fans,” Van Wagenen said. “Yo’s a great player. I think everyone enjoyed watching him when he was at his best.”
This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 2.