Posted by Mike Maar at 10:00 AM
The major question for the Mets’ off season has been answered, and Yoenis Cespedes is back in the fold. He showed his comfort with this team by taking basically the most “reasonable” deal that anyone would have predicted for him this off season. The Mets on the other hand really needed him. Sandy Alderson would have had to really get creative in order to replace Cespedes’ huge presence in the middle of the Met batting order. Four years is a perfect deal - it establishes a pillar presence in the lineup in these next few years when the Mets expect their Championship window to be wide open. It’s impossible to predict what this team will be in 5+ years from now.
With this Yo move, plus the previous moves of resigning Neil Walker and the departure of Bartolo Colon, there are really very few areas to address. The underlying truth is that much if not all of the Mets 2017 fate will rest on the health and performance of the starting pitching staff. Sure, there is the cloud of an impending suspension to their closer Jeurys Familia and the desire to bolster the bullpen. But there will likely be opportunities for the front office to make adjustments and add bullpen depth. Looking at the infield, there’s plenty of depth, even considering that David Wright is a huge question mark. Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera and possibly even Kelly Johnson could provide enough insurance behind the starting infield to suggest that there will be no new infielders introduced to the mix.
The real question I have is where does Sandy take the lineup from here. Is it “good enough” - even with the likely departure of either Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson? Or is Sandy going to look for an opportunity to take the lineup from good to great? If it’s the latter, then the only real opportunities for upgrade are at the C and possibly CF positions. With those, I could start throwing around names like Ramos and McCutchen who would be great additions. But they’re not the only guys out there who could take this team to an otherworldly level. Finding the right guys are Sandy’s job. Maybe they’re already here.. for CF, Juan Lagares/Michael Conforto? Do they still have faith that Travis d’Arnaud can overcome the injury bug which has consistently bitten him, learn how to become a professional hitter, and improve his throwing?
The Mets have plenty of power hitting as it is. The point I’d make is that you want to have as few potentially easy outs in your lineup, or spots where guys don’t have much of a chance against the top pitching you find in the playoffs. The Royals should have taught the Mets that lesson the hard way. That requirement isn’t the same as what you need to GET to the playoffs. Sluggers like Lucas Duda who so far have proven they can carry a team with power for stretches against “regular” pitching do have their value - they help get you there. But to get to the promised land - when you have to go up against a Bumgarner or Arieta in the playoffs, you need tough outs. In a big spot in a playoff game, can a d’Arnaud or Lagares get the job done against bigtime pitching? Sandy gets paid to answer that question this time of year - and be right.