1. “Cespedes carried us to the playoffs” While Cespedes certainly had a historic month of August, we must remember that the Mets were only 2 games back before his debut on August 1st. His arrival also coincided with the arrivals of Michael Conforto, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard, and the return of Travis d’Arnaud. Shortly after, the Mets added Addison Reed, David Wright, and Steven Matz back into the mix. Cespedes certainly had a huge role in the Mets passing Washington in the standings. But so did the starting pitching, Granderson, Murphy, and the new arrivals. Not to be overlooked was the ineptitude of Washington, who would finish with only 83 wins. To say that the Mets would’ve have missed the playoffs without Cespedes is just not accurate.
2. “Cespedes is a center fielder.” Other than for a handful of games in Oakland, never had any of his former teams believed this. Cespedes is a gifted left fielder who loves to showcase his arm. The Mets tried to hide him in centerfield because they saw it as an opportunity to utilize Michael Conforto’s bat instead of forgotten man Juan Lagares. This experiment backfired as Cespedes directly impacted two losses. Famously, on the first pitch of the World Series, Cespedes seemingly never saw Alcides Escobar’s fly ball until he made an ill-advised backhand attempt followed by kicking the ball into left field. This was inexplicably ruled an inside the park home run, igniting the Royals bench, Joe Buck, and the Kaufman Stadium crowd. Less documented was the play Cespedes didn’t make in the 5th inning of Game 4. Down 2 games to 1 at home, the Mets led the game 2-0 in the top of the 5th. Steven Matz induced a fly ball to left center from Salvator Perez which Cespedes got a bad read on, and rather than diving, attempted to make a shoestring catch on. Cespedes kicked the ball into LF for the second time in the series, and for the second time, it was inexplicably ruled an extra base hit. Commentator Harold Reynolds during the replay: “You’re not gonna see Cespeses lay out like a lot of other people.” Alex Gordon promptly singled in the first Royals run, in a game which Kansas City would win 5-3, with the game ending with Yoenis (the potential winning run) getting doubled off of first base on a line out.
3. His production is irreplaceable. While there is certainly no one else on the Mets roster that will likely match the numbers Cespedes can provide, it must be noted that the 2016 Mets (as currently composed) are not the same lineup that struggled in early 2015. Travis d’Arnaud drove in 41 runs in 67 games. The Mets were a different team with TdA in the lineup. Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are both productive hitters who should contribute to a more balanced attack. It’s unrealistic to expect much out of David Wright in 2016, but both Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares are due to rebound, and a full season for Michael Conforto is a very promising concept.
4. Cespedes is the righty we need to balance out the lineup. While the big power threats (Duda, Granderson, Conforto) are lefty, Cespedes doesn’t hit left handed pitching. It’s very peculiar that a right handed hitter with his power isn’t a .340 hitter versus LHP. For his career, Cespedes is a .252 hitter versus LHP.
5. His yellow compression sleeve is cool and unique. To 95% of fans, this is a non-issue. To this purist, it’s both an issue and an eyesore. Firstly, it’s a rules violation: MLB 3.03(b) states that all undershirts must be of a team color. If Bobby Cox were still managing, you know he’d be complaining to the ump about the canary colored compression sleeve that Cespedes wears. Secondly, it was rather unlucky in the postseason. With the sleeve on, the Mets played .250 ball (1-3), and .700 ball (7-3) without the sleeve. This is not to suggest that the sleeve had any bearing on the outcomes of games, but knowing the level of ballplayers’ superstitions, it’s a surprise he kept going to it. The actual significance of the yellow-green compression sleeve is symbolic. The Mets colors are orange and blue. Everyone on the team wears those colors. There is no reason Cespedes can’t have a sleeve made in orange (if there is any function to it in the first place). He wears the yellow sleeve for one reason: to stand out from his teammates. The best comment I’ve read thus far regarding Cespedes was “He plays for the name on the back of the jersey, not the team name on the front of the jersey.”
6. His struggles in the postseason were no big deal because he was hurt by a HBP. Cespedes did get hit in the left hand on 9/30 versus Philadelphia. But he looked pretty healthy when he homered in game 2 and game 3 of the NLDS. Cespedes did leave NLCS game 4 with a left shoulder injury. Funny thing is, there was no clear play where Cespedes injured his shoulder. Terry Collins commented that Yoenis was unable to lift the shoulder, and was scheduled for a cortisone shot. Many believe that Cespedes may have injured his shoulder while golfing during the postseason, which if he were to sign a multi-year mega deal, should be prohibited. There’s no way to tell the impact of the phantom shoulder injury, but his offensive shortcomings in the playoffs also had something to do with him being fed a steady diet of fastballs at his eyes and sliders low and away.
7. Cespedes is a complete hitter. When Cespedes came to the Mets, the initial comparison was to the Dodgers 2008 acquisition of Manny Ramirez. As the summer went on, with Cespedes now playing centerfield, even some Willie Mays comparisons were made. I never saw Mays play, but as I watched Cespedes display his 5 tool potential only to struggle in the postseason, a player came to mind: Alfonso Soriano. So I did what any baseball nerd would do: I compared the stats of both players through their first 4 seasons. There were obvious differences: Soriano began his career as an infielder, and was much more of a base stealer, but the stats are eerily similar. Through 4 full seasons, Soriano had a .311 OBP with 357 RBI, 533 K’s, and a HR every 20.8 ABs. Through his first 4 seasons, Cespedes has a .319 OBP, 367 RBI, 508 K’s, and a HR every 21.2 ABs. Cespedes had a postseason similar to Soriano’s 2003 struggle. The similarities are relevant: against second-tier competition, the swing-for-the-fences-on-every-pitch approach can be successful. Cespedes absolutely dominated in August when the Mets were playing the Marlins, Rockies, and Phillies. But in the postseason against teams that had been scouting him weeks in advance, Cespedes was unable to lay off bad pitches. Even more so than his futility against LHP, the fact that Cespedes owns a .319 lifetime on base percentage is a red flag. In today’s game, there’s no question that walks are over valued. No runner on second base has ever been driven in by a two out walk. That said, to have the kind of power that Yoenis Cespedes possesses and not accidentally get 50 walks a season speaks to the fact that he is not a disciplined hitter by any means. There were many ABs in the 2015 postseason where a base hit was all Cespedes needed; but instead struck out swinging as hard as he could at bad pitches.
8. Signing Cespedes sets us up to be contenders for the future. Herein lies perhaps the biggest concern with a possible long-term contract to Yoenis Cespedes. Suppose he were to sign a 5-year deal. Already 30 years old, the last 2 or 3 years of that deal would be a player on the wrong side of his prime. At the same time, healthy raises will be due to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto, and all the other young players currently playing for pennies. With David Wright already owed $97M over the next 5 seasons, is it really wise to sign another $20M+ player on the wrong side of his prime? Unless the Wilpons are selling the team, the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’