When the Mets re-signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year deal last week it was a move that was as necessary for GM Sandy Alderson as it is to breathe. There was simply no way the Mets could have moved forward with improving their roster for the 2017 season without having the big, Cuban slugger back in the middle of their batting order.
The fact that they were able to get things done as quickly and painlessly as they did, however, is probably the nicest surprise of all. Last year, I think we were all convinced that Cespedes was as good as gone following the amazing run to the World Series, but once the market for him didn’t develop, the team was able to swoop in late and retain the offensive powerhouse for what was, essentially, an incredibly team-friendly one-year deal.
Letting him walk this year, however, simply wasn’t an option. Cespedes had an awesome 2016 and showed he’s the type of star attraction that can thrive in the New York market. For a team with over 50 years in the league, the Mets haven’t necessarily had a very long litany of truly great players as even filling out a top ten list can be so varied that there would be very little consensus amongst of group of people charged with making the list.
Cespedes gives the Mets exactly what they need right now. A genuine superstar, a dynamic offensive presence and someone who embraces the town of New York and what it offers all while staying away from all the negative stuff that has hampered athletes en masse over the last few years. If the worst thing about the guy is that he likes to play golf on his time off, you would take that anytime. The man got paid, let’s not pretend that he didn’t, but the team got him back on their terms too with only having to commit to him for four years through his age-35 season.
Besides re-signing their superstar, the team also got this done early enough in the offseason where they’re able to head into today’s Winter Meetings in Nashville fully ready to execute whatever the rest of their plan is for constructing their roster for next season.
Which begs the question: with Cespedes back, what’s next?
The team was absolutely hammered by injuries last season and, as much as I hate Terry Collins, he was able to get them to the Wild Card game in a year where nobody would have hammered him all too hard if they hadn’t gotten that far. What kept them in that spot, though, wasn’t really an incredible managing job, it was the fact that they played in an overall mediocre league and were able to take advantage of what was the strength-of-schedule over the final month to sneak their way in.
With the starting rotation on track to be ready to go for Spring Training, there is still some problem areas for the Mets to address in Nashville this week. Not the least of which is the outfield. At the beginning of last season, the Mets tried to fit Cespedes into center-field where he played admirably during the 2015 World Series run, but ultimately isn’t well-suited for over the course of a full season. This year, the team recognizes that, in order to protect their investment while maximizing the return they get from Yoenis, he has to play left-field, a position where he’s been a Gold Glove winner in the past.
An upgrade for an everyday center fielder is necessary and – internally – there isn’t a lot of desirable options. In a perfect world, Juan Lagares would be at a place in his career where he’s finally seized the opportunity and has evolved into a somewhat consistent hitter to go along with his excellence defensively, but he has yet to prove he can hit right-handers. Curtis Granderson is at an advanced age and no longer has the range to patrol CF with any regularity. The Mets are flooded with outfielders best suited for corner spots and it’s imperative to make a move somewhere.
The Ideal AKA Pipe Dream:
Trade Granderson AND Jay Bruce, Sign Dexter Fowler
I don’t think this has any shot of happening, but this would be the best possible scenario I can think of. It allows Michael Conforto to continue to develop as an everyday player in RF and gives you a legitimate everyday CF in Fowler who just played a key role on a World Series winner.
Jay Bruce was having a good season with the Reds before coming to the Mets, but whether it was just the adjustment of joining a new team for the first time since getting to the Majors or not being able to handle the pressure of NY, he became just the latest big name acquisition to be booed in no time by the Queens faithful. The Mets picked up his option for 2017 which gives him a price tag of $13M which makes him a rather good deal if he’s producing. That being said, he’s an atrocious defensive OF and, on a team loaded with corner OFs is the obvious trade candidate.
Granderson has been everything you want as a representative of your ballclub. After a rough 2014, he single-handedly kept the team afloat offensively in 2015 before they were able to trade for Cespedes. Last year started off mired in dreck, but he picked up considerably over the final six weeks. That’s all in addition to being a quality human being who is very active in charities and promoting the brand in the most positive of ways. He’s also been an incredible veteran voice to the younger guys as they’ve come through the system and the stories of players saying how helpful and supportive he is inside the clubhouse are endless.
That being said, there does seem to be quite a bit of interest in both him and Bruce and, in my mind, if you’re able to tandem these three moves together, you’d be enhancing your roster in the most optimal of ways.
Trade Bruce, Keep Granderson
From everything being reported, both players are intriguing to teams around the league, but the Mets would prefer to trade Bruce over Curtis. I get it. It makes sense. Grandy has had success here while Bruce, in a short sample, has not. If you’re set on trading one, please let it be Bruce. Granderson isn’t an everyday CF, but I suppose he’d be able to get some time there and in RF and still give Conforto the regular reps needed to continue his development. This isn’t a horrible option, it’s just not the golden ticket.
The Far Fetched but still has some talk around it:
Trade Bruce and Conforto
OK, so we’ve established the team would like to move Bruce. But would they really be open to trading their former first-round pick who a year ago looked like a cornerstone for the next decade? Sources say: no, but they are listening when people call. When Conforto was called up in 2015, he impressed enough to be penciled in as a starter going forward, but he started 2016 struggling and never really recovered after Terry Collins started benching him. He became pull-happy and was demoted to Triple-A to figure things out. He produced like gangbusters in Vegas, but upon being recalled to the big team, had a hard time getting off the bench again.
I’d say it’s still too early to give up on him and, apparently the team feels that way too as there’s no serious talks of moving him. They’re just keeping an open mind in case something intriguing does come through. That’s fair and smart, but with the year “Scooter” just had his value has to have plummeted and a return on him wouldn’t be anywhere close to as impressive as it may have been a year ago.
The Winter Meetings are just getting going and the word on the street makes it sound like the Mets have laid all the groundwork to be able to strike early this week. While it may seem that Jay Bruce is as good as gone, I never put anything past Sandy Alderson. I have the utmost faith in the man and he’s definitely earned it after 1 1/2 postseason appearances in the last two years.
What’s been interesting about all these rumors is that – while we’ve heard certain teams linked to these players – I haven’t seen one instance of what the return would be for any of them. It’s constantly bandied about that the Mets would want bullpen help or may look to replenish the cupboard of prospects as they’ve gotten thin in minor league depth, but there’s been nothing solid in terms of “here’s what’s being offered”. Obviously, that has me scratching my chin, but as I said, trust Sandy. He’s the baseball maverick, after all, and has built a roster that, in theory, has an open window to compete for at least a few more years.
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Thanks for reading.