This is a story about a Major League baseball player and a wild boar.
Why would we kid you?
Since Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year, $110 million contract with the Mets in December 2016, the outfielder has been nothing but trouble. Constantly injured and extremely eccentric, he’s epitomized the nightmare teams have after offering a player this type of deal.
Cespedes hasn’t played an inning for the Mets since July 2018. Initially, the problem was bone calcifications to his heels. Within three months in 2018, he had surgery on both and the Mets were advised not to expect him back until around the All-Star break in 2019.
By May of last year, it still wasn’t clear whether Cespedes was still on schedule to return. And that’s when he fractured his right ankle on his ranch in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
At the time, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who was Cespedes’ agent before he left to work in the team’s front office, said the injury was caused by a violent fall. But that’s all he said. Most assumed he’d fallen off a horse.
Then some strange things began happening. The Mets announced Cespedes had agreed to a restructuring of his contact that ultimately could cost him $30 million.
And thanks to a report in the New York Post, now we know why the player was so willing to acquiesce.
Cespedes injury resulted from stepping into a hole while being charged by a wild boar on his property.
The Post report indicated Cespedes, using corn as a lure, had set many traps on his property in an attempt to keep the boars from bothering people. After freeing a boar from a trap, the animal somehow frightened Cespedes and in his hurry to get away from it, he stepped in a hole and fractured his ankle.
“There are many wild pigs [on the ranch],” Cespedes told Vice in March 2017. “I don’t want them to eat my land.”
Aware the Mets would want to know exactly what happened, Cespedes immediately reported the circumstances of the injury, something the club was able to verify by visiting the ranch.
At this point, Cespedes and the Mets had a real problem. There are a number of athletic endeavors players are specifically forbidden to do while under contract. It’s all written in fonts large enough to read and understand.
While it would be unusual for Cespedes’ deal to specifically include interactions with boars – duh – you might expect it to say he wouldn’t be allowed to ride horses.
The players understand if they are injured doing something they shouldn’t be doing, the club has every right to seek financial relief.
The Mets took immediate action by deciding not to pay Cespedes for the remainder of the 2019 season. They also wanted to change the terms of what remained this season, the final year of his deal, by making the $29 million he was due non-guaranteed.
Once that started happening, the Players Association and the Commissioners Office began looking into the situation.
According to the Post, the Mets were able to lean on two specific cases where unauthorized activities resulted in players being seriously injured.
In February 1994, outfielder Ron Gant broke the fibula and tibia in his right leg in a dirt bike accident on private property. In January 2004, Aaron Boone of the Yankees, now the team’s manager, tore his left ACL while playing pickup basketball.
In Gant’s case, the Braves put him on unconditional-release waivers and were allowed to reduce that they owed him from $5.5 million to approximately $900,000. The Yankees offered Boone 30 days termination pay (about $918,000) of his $5.75 million contract.
If Cespedes felt the Mets were unjustified reducing his salary, you might have expected he and his agent to fight them about it. Cespedes decided instead to negotiate a compromise and by the middle of December the deal was done.
According to payroll information obtained by the Associated Press, Cespedes was paid only $15 million of his $29 million salary last season.
For 2020, the guarantee of his deal was reduced from $29.5 million to $6 million. Should he be well enough to make the opening day roster, of if he’s on the disabled list for some other reasons besides his ankle or his feet, the Mets will up that to $11 million. There are also new plate appearance bonuses that will reap the player about $9 million more.
So what’s the life lesson here boys and girls? If you’re a million-dollar athlete, stay far away from wild boars.