Signed OF-R Yoenis Cespedes to a three-year contract worth $75 million, with an opt-out after one year. [1/22]
It's January 23rd. The Mets have signed Yoenis Cespedes, Antonio Bastardo, Alejandro de Aza, and Asdrubal Cabrera, while also having traded for Neil Walker before their relative spending spree. Depending on how you want to do the accounting, they have committed around $100 million in new money towards their 2016 team and beyond. This should not be considered noteworthy for a team coming off a division title and a World Series appearance. It is less than the Royals (!) spent this offseason, and half of what the Cubs spent on just Jason Heyward. However, even a few days ago it seemed unfathomable that such an outlay would happen.
As a statement of intent (and a bit of nifty and very necessary PR), the deal for Cespedes is already an unmitigated success. He hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 home runs in 57 games as a Met in 2015. Now, that OPS is 140 points above his career line, and he is unlikely to repeat it. He will also be forced to play mostly CF (where he is below-average), while flanked by Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto, both of whom are solid, but not spectacular defenders themselves. That does not add up to a good defensive outfield. However, he is likely better defensively than Alejandro de Aza, who looked to be at worst the long side of a platoon in center field prior to this signing. And even if Cespedes hews closer to his career line, that is still a durable power bat in a lineup that sorely needed both power and durability. It represents a clear upgrade for the team on a deal well below what was expected from the market.
Some of that was his own choice. Cespedes reportedly had a five-year deal on the table from the Nationals worth upwards of $100 million. That may seem like a lot of money left on the table, but given the reported heavy deferments in Washington's offer, and the one-year opt out in the Mets contract, the value gap functionally is much smaller. This also isn't the first time we have seen a player this offseason balk at going to the Nationals either. It is too early to say it is a trend (and the Nats did snag Daniel Murphy and Shawn Kelley), but perhaps a work environment where your star player gets choked in the dugout isn't ideal.
Meanwhile, from the Mets point of view it is close to a perfect storm. They get back a fan-favorite player who improves their lineup. They—at least temporarily—quell concerns about their ability and willingness to spend to improve the team. And they accomplish both with what may end up just a one-year commitment for $27.5 million. Now they have a lineup that rolls out above-average hitters from the first to the eighth spots in the lineup. Oh, and the rotation is pretty good too, as you might have heard. New York is now the NL East favorite on paper, which isn't worth a whole lot in January (just ask the 2015 Nationals), but Mets fans can at least take a moment to kick back and indulge in one of Cespedes' favorite past times. —Jeffrey Paternostro
There are no shortage of both hard and soft factors to take into account when determining whether Cespedes' return to the heart of the Mets' lineup is a positive or negative for his 2016 fantasy value (pushing that beyond this year is pointless because of the likelihood he'll opt out of this deal after the season). On one hand, he hit .287 with 17 homers in just two months worth of games after the trade to New York. On the other hand, he hit .224/.290/.480 with five homers in 27 games at Citi Field—leaving most of that production on the road. And as Citi Field plays about 10 percent below-average for right-handed home runs, some of these splits make sense. However, they don't tell the whole story. The comfort of the re-sign is a real thing, and the lineup surrounding Cespedes looks pretty good all of a sudden. The biggest difference this will make will be his ability to score runs while likely hitting third or fourth for the Mets (as opposed to fifth or sixth, as he's hit elsewhere). The HR and RBI are a pretty safe bet to be there, as least as far as bets go, with 25 and 90 respectively seeming like realistic targets he can hit. Overall, that makes this a net positive for his value despite the home park depressing power.
Of course, it's not Cespedes' fault that he's being drafted in the top-50 overall so far this winter—which doesn't seem like the smartest play considering he's going ahead of players like Justin Upton, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Carlos Gonzalez. Those are all players that offer a similar skill set, but for either upside or stability purposes should be taken ahead of La Potencia. In a perfect world, Cespedes would be a reasonable back-end OF2, as he's unlikely to help much in batting average and won't steal more than a handful of bases anymore; however, that stretch run has a hold on fantasy owners. As our marketing readers should know full well, past performance is not always indicative of future results. —Bret Sayre