Keidel: Cespedes Just Might Give Mets A Big Boost Once Again

Slugger Should Be Motivated In A Contract Year

Jason Keidel
November 21, 2019 - 1:41 pm
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On Wednesday morning, Boomer and Gio were musing over the future of Yoenis Cespedes. 

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Baffled, like the rest of us, by the talented and tortured outfielder, the WFAN hosts wondered if he should play another game as a New York Met after the river of bad blood between Cespedes and a fan base tired of all the doomed updates on his physical health. Adding to the surreality of his time with the team, a video was recently released of Cespedes lacing line drives and such before the highlight reel was quickly removed by former Met Endy Chavez, now a coach in the team’s farm system. 

We marveled at Cespedes’ enchanted summer of 2015, during which his thunderous bat plowed the way for the Mets to surge into the World Series. In 2016, he played 132 games, qualified as an All-Star, finished in the top 10 in National League MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger Award. Then he signed a four-year, $110 million deal. 

Since then, Cespedes has been enigmatic, at best, finding new ways to miss games with bewildering injuries. He played just 81 games in 2017, 38 games in 2018 and missed all of 2019. This year, while recovering from heel issues, Cespedes broke his ankle at his Florida ranch, sealing a failed summer for the slugger. In all, he's played 119 out of 486 possible games the past three years.

Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes bats at Citi Field on Aug. 11, 2017.
Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Images

Only Cespedes knows how severely he was injured, how preventable those injuries were or how hard he's tried to return. But it's fair to wonder why his playing time shrinks exponentially when his money is guaranteed. And it summons the cynic in all of us to now hear of a video of Cespedes flashing the swing that made him so coveted and earned him a monster deal with the Mets. And it's quite fair to suggest he's eager to perform now that he's entering the final year of his contract.  

Cespedes will make $29.5 million to audition for his next contract. And at 34, it will be his last chance to make substantial cash. Fed up folks, like Boomer and Gio, could urge the Mets to keep Cespedes pinned to the periphery, squeeze the insurance money from his deal and dole it out to players who actually want to be in the Big Apple. 

Or perhaps the best thing for the Mets is to let him loose, on the field, in uniform. Clearly, he's not motivated by winning, by his teammates or by the camaraderie of a pennant race. He's moved by money. But sometimes a man moved only by personal gain can help the group. Economists long asserted that the greater whole is benefited by each person doing what's best for himself (or herself). 

So if the selfishness of Cespedes and his singular desire to get paid make him a .280 hitter with 31 homers and 86 RBIs — the stats he posted in 2016, his last full season — then let the player play. Even in 2017, when he played exactly half a season, he was on pace to blast 34 home runs and 84 RBIs with a .292 average. (Cespedes owns a .281/.349/.528 slash line since he signed the dotted line, with 57 homers and 157 RBIs in those 251 games.)

Unless the Mets plan to stack the insurance money onto an offer for Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole — and we know they won't — then plop Cespedes onto a team that just went 86-76. They have the best pitcher on the planet (Jacob deGrom), the sport’s best rookie last season (Pete Alonso) and a guy who looks like a career .300 hitter (Jeff McNeil). 

Imagine that lineup with an inspired Cespedes. No matter how irritating he's been, he will play like Johnny Hustle (Manny Machado's infamous handle for Pete Rose) in one last attempt to dupe a club into overpaying for him. 

What harm can Cespedes do? He will do his darndest to keep his ligaments from snapping, his tendons from tearing and his bones from cracking. And since he's already broken your heart, maybe he can lift your spirits with one fine, farewell season.  

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel.

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