There is a palpable anger in the Mets fan community right now as word filters down that they are completely out on Yoenis Cespedes. While he's a streaky hitter, vanished for the final two weeks of the season and the post-season, and put together a career-stretch that is not sustainable, the fact remains that the Mets would not have sniffed the post-season had he not been acquired in the first place. Hope was razor thin at best that Cespedes was coming back, but in this case it's not the player but the concept of a middle-of-the-order bat that has the fans in an uproar.
Justin Upton, for example, is still out there for the taking and a strong case can be made that he's a better player than Yoenis Cespedes is anyway. Jason Heyward was available, and although entering his prime years as he bolted from the Cardinals, his offensive numbers have been in decline since his first couple of seasons in Atlanta. Alex Gordon is another solid piece – better than an Alejandro De Aza, but not in the same league as the All-Star sluggers the team's fans crave.
Let's take a look at what the Mets have spent thus far in the off-season:
- Asdrubal Cabrera – $9.25 million per year for two years
- Bartolo Colon – $7.25 million
- Jerry Blevins – $4 million
- Alejandro De Aza – $5.75 million
- Neil Walker – $2 million incremental cost over Jon Niese estimated as an arbitration settlement
That's a total expenditure of $28.25 milion.
Let's play a game for a moment and try an alternate approach with some different cast members for the 2016 roster:
- Wilmer Flores at SS – $600K
- Logan Verrett/Sean Gilmartin/Rafael Montero at 5th Starter – $600K
- Josh Smoker/Dario Alvarez – $500K
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Darrell Ceciliani/Brandon Nimmo – $600K
- Dilson Herrera – $500K
Now subtract that total from the already spent $28.25 million and you have $25.45 million leftover. However, that's not all you have to spend. There's the departures of Daniel Murphy, the bigger Bartolo Colon contract and Michael Cuddyer among others that throw another $30 million into the payroll coffers. Obviously some money has to be budgeted for increases via arbitration to players like Matt Harvey and Lucas Duda, but the point is that easily $45 million was available to address payroll decisions.
Now, as the team showed last year fortunes changed when some veterans were added in the form of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe. They improved further when Cespedes arrived. Then there were the bullpen arms of Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed.
The question I'm raising is not how little the Mets have spent, but whether or not they've chosen to spend wisely. Wilmer Flores was consistently praised by the announcers in the post-season for his defense and his offense was in the upper half of all shortstops in baseball, yet they've rendered him into a bench player. Everyone assumes the twice broken leg of Ruben Tejada is coming back as well. Nevermind that they have Matt Reynolds available and Gavin Cecchini barking at his heels in AAA. They're banking on a comeback from two breaks to the same arm on Jerry Blevins. Alejandro De Aza was so lightly regarded that he was released by the Orioles during the season last year. Bartolo Colon is a solid pitcher but you could make a case that a 4.00 ERA could be provided for significantly less money by one of the triumvirate of other younger starters who could muddle through until Zack Wheeler returns.
While I'm not advocating they went with all rookies and unproven players, it seems they have put a lot of what are apparently very limited payroll resources into some questionable decisions. First of all, the manager doesn't seem to know what to do with rookies. Second, as Johnson and Uribe showed, there is a role for professional role players. I'm just not sure the De Azas of this world qualify.
Should the Mets have gone in another direction for their roster investments?