The Mets announced Wednesday that Cespedes would undergo a pair of surgeries to remove calcifications in both of his heels, an ailment that has bothered him dating back to his teenage years.
John Ricco, one of three executives filling the general manager's role with Sandy Alderson on a leave of absence to undergo cancer treatment, said an MRI on the 32-year-old Cespedes revealed the calcification around his Achilles tendons as well as bone spurs on each heel.
Cespedes is expected to have the first surgery this week. Ricco said the second surgery would take place in about two to three months, and the Mets hope that the outfielder can return in eight to 10 months, though the recovery may take longer. He added that Cespedes' injuries are not considered career-threatening.
"Nobody likes to have surgery, go through surgery, anytime," Cespedes said through an interpreter at a pregame news conference. "I tried to do my best, tried to stay on the field and play a lot. But we exhausted all the conservative treatment options and there was a moment where I was not able to be on the field."
That moment arrived Friday, when Cespedes returned after missing more than nine weeks with what was believed to be a strained right hip flexor. He played in three rehab games before returning to the Mets and homering as the designated hitter against the crosstown Yankees.
But afterward, Cespedes said he was feeling severe pain in his heels. He didn't play Saturday and was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday as the Mets began to realize that his heels were the root cause of the various lower-leg injuries that have limited Cespedes to 119 games since the start of 2017, the first season of his four-year, $110 million contract. He spent time on the disabled list last year with strains of both hamstrings.
"When it became clear to us on Friday, after having a lengthy rehab process and then playing in four games in five days and coming out of Friday, a game in which he DH'd, still having pain, the concern on our end was not only the pain he was in but the fact it was contributing to him altering his running style and therefore leading to some of the other leg issues," Ricco said. "And you get to the point where that just doesn't make any sense, because you're just going to keep in that cycle."
Ricco said Sunday that the Mets were aware of Cespedes' heel issues when they acquired him from the Detroit Tigers at the 2015 trade deadline. He said Wednesday the team has insurance on Cespedes' contract.
Cespedes said he had hoped to put off surgery until retirement.
"I've been playing through this thinking that maybe when I finish my career, I could go and have surgery," he said. "I cannot think that way anymore."
Despite his various ailments, Cespedes has been a difference-maker for the Mets when on the field. He sparked their run to the 2015 World Series by hitting 17 homers in 59 regular-season games. In January 2016, he signed a three-year deal with an opt-out clause after one season and went on to hit .280 with 31 homers and 86 RBIs in 132 games for New York, which reached the National League wild-card game.
Cespedes is batting .282 with 26 homers and 71 RBIs dating back to the start of last season, including .262 with nine homers and 29 RBIs in 38 games this year.
"We would manage everything we possibly could to have him in our lineup, because we're a better team and our job is to win games and we haven't been doing a lot of that," manager Mickey Callaway said of the Mets, who entered Wednesday in last place in the NL East. "We miss him. I'm glad that Yoenis gets some clarity on this situation and feels like he's going to be able to move forward at some point and be pain-free."