Yoenis Céspedes
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Mets, Yoenis Céspedes agree to restructure contract

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Mets outfielder Yoenis Céspedes spent most of the last three years on the sideline, playing in a combined 119 games in 2017-18 before missing the entire ’19 campaign. The slugger battled heel injuries and also suffered an accident on his ranch, described as a “violent fall,” that resulted in multiple ankle fractures.

Céspedes inked a four-year, $110 million contract with the Mets as a free agent in November 2016. He has one more year remaining at $29.5 million. Or had, rather. SNY’s Andy Martino reports that Céspedes and the Mets have agreed to amend the remainder of his contract. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Mets withheld part of his 2019 salary. The amended contract includes a settlement for that as well as a “significant reduction” of his 2020 salary which, all told, will save the Mets over $10 million. Per Jon Heyman, Céspedes has the opportunity to earn some of the money back through performance incentives.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that both Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association were involved in this process. It is fair to assume that, because the union was involved and Céspedes agreed to a reduction in salary, the Mets had a reasonable case against him. It sounds like they didn’t buy his “violent fall” excuse. His injury might have actually occurred while doing something that would violate the Uniform Player Contract.

It remains to be seen if Céspedes will be healthy enough for Opening Day. GM Brodie Van Wagenen said earlier this week that Céspedes began a running program. He had already been hitting and throwing. The Mets’ outfield as it stands right now will include Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis, Jake Marisnick, and Michael Conforto.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”