Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
For whatever reason, a guy with his kind of arm and running speed has been handed what's arguably the easiest of the three outfield positions to play. Normally you would think that he would be better suited to CF or RF, but his Gold Glove in left and his below average metrics in CF suggest he should remain where he's most comfortable. The CF experiment was pretty much a failure, though moving him to RF to take advantage of that arm might be something to consider. However, before defensive issues come into the equation, financial ones must come first. For his age 30 season he's earning $27.5 million and as far as the Mets are concerned, it's money well spent. When he's on the field he's the type of hitter like Darryl Strawberry or Dave Kingman that everyone stops to watch until his AB is over. The deal he signed would actually cut his salary to $23.5 million each of the next two years if he chooses to remain with the Mets. As a point of comparison, the only more expensive hitters were the recently retired Alex Rodriguez and two time MVP Miguel Cabrera. That's pretty heady company. Many feel he's going to exercise his option to become a FA to test the waters. While it's possible he'll land more than the $23.5 million he would get with the Mets, the issue is probably term of the contract rather than the average annual value. With the Mets he's only set for 2 more years. He may look for that contract that takes him into retirement. Of course, it's also possible he renegotiates his deal with the Mets, too. However, I don't see him taking 2 years when another club will likely double that duration. After all, the Mets gave 4 years to Curtis Granderson when he was already 33 and Cespedes will be just 31. He's obviously the top choice but it is not the Mets who will be making that decision.
Is he as bad as the .217 hitter he was when he was banished to Las Vegas? Is he is as good as the .422 he was hitting when finally promoted back from the PCL? Or is he what he showed last year in his first taste of the majors -- someone with 30 HR and 90 RBI potential while hitting a respectable .270? I got pilloried for this comparison, but in Kevin McReynolds' 4 year Mets career he averaged 26 HRs, 90 RBIs and batted .276. If Cespedes bolts for greener pa$tures el$ewhere, that's not a bad consolation prize at all if he's actually penciled into the lineup on a regular basis.
Just as the Mets put their strongest arm inexplicably in left field, they put their weakest arm equally inexplicably in right field. Granderson is a streaky, all-or-nothing type of hitter. Sandy Alderson didn't apparently make much of an effort to deal the man away during this past off season which is partially understandable. After all, it wasn't until nearly February that they knew Cespedes would be coming back. He couldn't afford to be down potentially 60 HRs between those two missing pieces, However, this year he has Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce to factor into the equation for some power, so it would behoove him to work the phones to see if someone would be interested in his final contract year. If not, LF may be a good new home for Granderson to play. He's still got power. He's still got good instincts as an outfielder. His arm could be hidden a bit with the shorter throws from LF.
He's another player in the same boat as a Gavin Cecchini and a TJ Rivera. Are they a product of the inflated hitting stats in Las Vegas or are they for real? The only way to know is to play but in the midst of a pennant chase he's not going to get too many opportunities. What we do know from his trial earlier in the year is that he doesn't embarrass himself at the plate. In just under 400 ABs in Las Vegas he hit .352 with 11 HRs and 61 RBIs. He had a great OBP of .423 after barely missing .400 last year which would have made 3 seasons he eclipsed the .400 mark. The vast majority of his minor league career has been spent in CF, but he logged more time in the corners with the Mets.
Cespedes' situation is tied at the hip to David Wright. If the Mets work out some kind of settlement with Wright to buy him out of his contract, then they will likely make a hard run at extending Cespedes beyond 2018. If not, then Cespedes leaves. That makes Michael Conforto the default answer, but I'm already on record hedging my bets to set he and Flores both up to succeed by platooning at 1B. That leaves Curtis Granderson who is likely not going to be moved as the preferred starter. Nimmo can get plenty of playing time between resting the other outfielders and see if he can play himself into a starting role in 2018.