And just like that, the best player at the free agent store was taken home. As of the time of writing of this article, we’re still waiting on news about the CBA and don’t even know if signings and trades are going to be put on hold, but Yoenis Cespedes didn’t want to wait and is back with the Mets, this time on a four-year, $110 million deal. The contract is the second biggest the Mets have ever given out, behind only Carlos Beltran’s seven-year, $119 million deal. The $27.5 million AAV he will be making is the highest ever for the Mets and the highest ever for an outfielder. It’s also the second-highest ever for a position player, with only Miguel Cabrera’s $31 million AAV in front of him. That’s an awful lot of clams for a 31-year old outfielder on a contract which also features a no-trade clause.
Of course, there’s a reason Cespedes is set up to earn that much money a year after taking what has, as we all originally suspected might be the case with that opt-out, turned into a one-year, $27.5 million deal with the Mets. The reason is that he’s one of the best players of in baseball and undoubtedly the toast of this year’s free agent town. Cespedes is 15th in fWAR among position players from 2015 to 2016 with 9.9. He’s also 15th in home runs with 66. Over the duration of his MLB career, from 2012 to 2015, he’s 29th in fWAR and 16th in home runs.
While it’s unlikely Cespedes will put up seasons like his 6.7 fWAR season from 2015 throughout the duration of this contract, he should continue to crush the ball for a bit and the Mets’ ability to wring value from the contract will depend on where they play him defensively right now, as he split his time between left and center last season. His defensive stats were none too kind to his time in center, but he still grades out as above average in left. As long as the Mets keep him over there, he’ll likely be of much more value to the Mets, so hopefully they will do the smart thing there.
The Mets have a starting rotation that, if healthy, might the best in MLB (non-Dodgers, Pokemon-style, collect-all-the-broken-pitchers and, oh yeah, we still have Kershaw division). While pitcher health is far from guaranteed, they’ll certainly need offense in the event that they get some better luck in that department next season. Cespedes leaving the team would have made it difficult for the Mets to find another replacement for the player who led the team in so many statistics. Sure the market for the best dingerers is an expensive market, but if the Mets don’t want to waste their cost-controlled pitchers, they need help scoring runs now and Cespedes certainly does that. There were rumors that he would get a five-year deal, but the Mets were able to woo him with a higher AAV over the next four years, which meshes well with the idea of contending while their pitchers are still affordable.
Grade for Mets: A
While I can’t give the highest mark possible to the Mets as my compatriot did last offseason when reviewing the Cespedes signing, that’s just due to the sheer amount of money involved here. Sure, the Mets are paying a hefty premium for Cespedes’ services, but what else were they going to do? If the Mets’ rotation isn’t plagued by health problems as they were last season, and Cespedes left, there weren’t really any better options for getting that sort of hitter in their lineup short of trading away some of the pitching talent that would get them to a point where they would need that sort of hitter anyway. So, yeah, the Mets ponied up and and can move on to other offseason needs.
The Mets' work isn’t over on the outfield this hot stove season, as they now have to deal with the issue that they have more outfielders than they need and most of them are lefties. There are a lot different ways to address this situation through trades, though, so this is a problem that Sandy Alderson and company can certainly address. The biggest problem, keeping their dinger donor in the outfield is done and they can move on to other deals and hope for some better luck in the pitcher-health department next season.
Grade for Cespedes: A+
Turned out that taking the deal that he had last year worked out about as well as it could have for Cespedes. The Mets ponied up and now Cespedes can actually pony up or just settle in on whatever his next preferred crazy mode of transport is.