Reese Kaplan -- Heresy! What if Cespedes Leaves?


There’s not much that can be said about the impact Yoenis Cespedes has had on the Mets’ fortunes.  Not only is his presence in the lineup clearly the most dominant hitting the franchise has ever seen (Mike Piazza included), but it’s probably allowed some of the other players who felt the pressure to be “The Guy” relax a bit and flourish – Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Conforto and even Wilmer Flores. 

Both here and in columns all over the media there’s been rampant speculation on what it will cost to lock up Cespedes to a new contract.  The Mets are in a position the other 29 teams do not enjoy which is the opportunity to negotiate in-season for his services, but once the World Series ends all bets are off and he’s a free agent available to the highest bidder.  Free agents traditionally acquire their new deals based not on what they’re expected to do, but what they have done (and more specifically, what they have done most recently).  For that reason alone, Cespedes may be pushing that heretofore unimagined $200 million contract plateau usually reserved for the most elite players in the game.

Now one can debate back and forth all day whether or not he belongs in the same stratosphere as Robinson Cano, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez, but if he was able to replicate what he’s done in his New York trial then he most certainly does.  However, looking back at his career he’s been a free swinger with poor on-base skills good for driving in runs but not necessarily even the best hitter on his own team. 

Now the Mets have been on the downward spiral for payroll for quite some time now, yet even the most jaded Wilpon detractors have to admit they loosened the purse strings this year to bring on the likes of Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Addison Reed and (you can’t win ‘em all) Eric O’Flaherty.  The results of these investments have included not only first place in the NL East, but an explosion in attendance, relevancy in media and they’ve effectively (with an assist from the Toronto Blue Jays) shoved the Yankees off the pedestal that represents New York baseball.

So what happens if at year end those cross-town rivals realize that Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are getting neither younger nor healthier?  Or what if the Angels seek to fill the void left by Josh Hamilton?  Or what if the Mets simply feel his asking price or contract duration is bad business?  What then?

Like a young couple’s first conversation about life insurance, no one wants to talk about a possible negative future.  However, the reality is that you have to have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t unfold as you’d intended.   So in terms of the Mets, if for whatever reason Cespedes is not here for the 2016 season, what are the alternatives?

Other Free Agent Acquisitions

  • Alex Gordon – He’s a solid player with a team option.  It’s unlikely KC would let him walk but they did bid goodbye to KC lifer Billy Butler, so anything is possible.
  • Jason Heyward – While he’s never quite matched his stellar 2012 Braves season when he clubbed 27 HRs and drove in 82, he’s a Gold Glove fielder, just 26 years old and may be inked by the Cardinals before going on the open market. He’s hitting .292 for them, though with just 11 HRs and 53 RBIs which is somewhat surprising for the big 6’5” right fielder.   At his age he’s just entering his prime, so if he does hit the market he might have room to grow.  For the Mets, they may pass as they’re lefty-heavy already with Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Lucas Duda. 
  • Justin Upton – The 3-time All Star is having a nice year for the San Diego Padres showing both power (25 HRs) and speed (19 SBs).  However, they’re likely to let him walk given their need to rebuild yet again.  He’s right handed which would help more in balancing the Mets’ offensive attack and at age 28 still with plenty of mileage left on the clock. 
  • Gerardo Parra – Like Yoenis Cespedes, he chose to peak at just the right time entering free agency.  He traveled from Milwaukee to Baltimore in a July trade, but things have not gone well since joining the American League.  He’s still hitting .294 overall with his usual stellar defense, but only .225 in an Orioles uniform.  A career .277 lefty hitter, he might be an interesting and solid platoon option with Juan Lagares in CF.  This approach could work if the Mets were confident that full seasons from David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Michael Conforto and continued development of Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera would compensate for the loss of Yoenis Cespedes. 


They could form a platoon with Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares in centerfield, though Nimmo has just a partial season at AAA under his belt and Lagares’ health is still a question mark.  The usual suspects – Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Darrell Ceciliani, Eric Campbell, et al are likely AAAA or bench players.  They could re-sign a guy like Kelly Johnson but he’s probably better served in the veteran bench role than starting every day.  Michael Cuddyer is still around (and on the payroll for another year), but it’s unlikely they want to go with an outfield left to right of Conforto, Granderson and Cuddyer on a regular basis.  In-house options are ugly.

Trade Route

This one is a wildcard.  It is beyond your control as it takes two to tango and there’s no way to force other teams into trading players you covet.  Still, it is possible they could pull something out of thin air by offering up, say, a Lucas Duda and pitching, sliding Cuddyer into 1B as a one-year solution.  That combination might bring you back a solid outfielder.  You also have some spare parts in Dilson Herrera (if you see Flores as more of a second baseman than shortstop), Matt Reynolds (now that Gavin Cecchini has seemingly pushed ahead of him on the prospect chart), Kevin Plawecki and Brandon Nimmo (if you’re going after an outfielder). 

What is your Plan B if Cespedes leaves for GREENER pastures?


Thomas Brennan said...

My plan B if we don't sign Cespedes is to buy a half gallon of Cookies and Cream ice cream, get a box of Kleenex, and curl up on the couch and watch honeymooners re-runs. Just kidding, but I would consider trading Duda to get real outfield talent and re-signing Murph if reasonable to play first base. Hopefully, just a reasonable 2 or 3 year deal figuring Dom Smith, after adding some Mack Ade-recommended homers, slots in at 1B in 2018.

Nimmo won't be ready until 2017 and may never be more than marginal. He slugged .354 this year. Ceciliani slugged .581. Nimmo is not ready.

Metsiac said...

Murphy won't sign a one or two year deal, not with his value on the FA market. If the Mets offer the QO and he accepts, we've got him for a year at $15m plus.

I'm not interested in giving big contacts to a corner OFer. One of the hesitations in going for Cespedes, according to recent reports, was the concern that he wouldn't be able to play CF. With Conforto,Grandy,Lagares,and Cuddy, only a platoon partner for Lagares, such as Parra, is worth considering.

Anonymous said...

To sign anyone other than Cespedes would require the Mets to again lose their #1 draft pick. Do they want to do this again? I think not.

Trading Duda + pitching for an outfielder? what pitching is there left to trade? Even in an inconsistent year, Duda has 21 hrs.

If the Mets don't sign Cespedes, they will go with a full year of Conforto at LF, Lagares back in CF and Granderson in RF. Don't forget that Wright is now back.

bob gregory said...

That ice cream idea is sounding like the best option.

Mack Ade said...

I don't want to do anything to lose the first round draft pick.

The future of this team is to develop talent like Michael Conforto, Gavin Cecchini, Matt Harvey, and, yes, Dominic Smith

Reese Kaplan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reese Kaplan said...

Gsellman, Montero, Verrett, Niese, Morris and Ynoa come to mind as pitching options that could be traded.

eraff said...

They need to hold the Arms they have. It takes 6-8 Starting Pitchers to win....and it's the single LEAST available, most expensive thing there is.... and it's hard to win big with scrap heapers filling in.

I love Cespedes, but a core offense can always "patch and mix" guys....even opportunistic re-treds. Cespedes is now a 150 million man.... that's a big bite!

bob gregory said...

Sometimes....you just have to take that big bite.
After all......the ice cream cone can melt and leave you with a messy puddle.

Herb G said...

Sorry to get here so late. Don't know if anyone will see this, but I'll put in my two cents anyway.

First off, if I'm Alderson, I'm not letting Cespedes get away. I hate long term deals, but if I have to give YC 6 yrs and $150 mil, so be it. I think Yoenis really wants to stay with the Mets, so he just might be willing to sign for a bit less than market.

As to a Plan B, the best FA alternatives (Heyward, Upton, Gordon) would all require losing a #1 pick. No dice. Parra is a possible option, but he is no Yoenis, he may get a QO too, and I suspect he is resigning with the O's. An advantage to him is he plays CF and hits lefty, so would complement Lagares well. I wanted to trade for him at the deadline, not as the big bat but as a complementary player.

The preferred option is probably to work a trade for an elite OF. Would a package built around Wheeler and Nimmo (maybe to include Niese and/or Verrett) bring back Carlos Gonzales and others from Colorado? Others I would target are Braun and Nelson Cruz. Maybe Adam Jones or Josh Reddick too.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Mets are in a position to trade away any starting pitching at this point.

Disagree with Eraff, I think the rarest, most valuable commodity in baseball today is the power hitter. Look around at all the young guns across the major leagues.

Cespedes is the clearest, cleanest, best solution. Sign him and the team is essentially set. In two years, Granderson leaves. The Mets just need to carry that contract for the next two years, and there's already room with departures of Colon, Murphy, etc.

James Preller

Mack's Mets © 2012