It’s easy to forget about him after back-to-back injury-ruined seasons, but Yoenis Cespedes is still a member of the Mets. When the club re-signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110MM contract entering 2017, he was coming off his latest star-caliber showing at the plate, but it proved to be the first of three straight painfully short seasons for the outfielder. Cespedes played 81 games that year, 38 in 2018 and none this season. Heel and ankle problems kept Cespedes off the field this year, and the Mets aren’t sure when or if he’ll return in 2020, Matt Ehalt of Yahoo Sports relays.
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who happens to be Cespedes’ former agent, said Monday it’s “too early to tell” about his chances of playing in 2020. There’s not “enough information to predict when he’s going to be back,” Van Wagenen added. As Ehalt points out, Cespedes’ up-in-the-air status only serves to complicate matters for Van Wagenen, who’s in a crucial second offseason atop the Mets’ baseball department, as well as the organization as a whole.
With a $29.5MM salary, the 34-year-old Cespedes is the Mets’ highest-paid player. Because Cespedes’ contract is insured, the club’s in position to recoup 60 to 70 percent once he misses 60 days, Ehalt notes. But if the Mets don’t know how much time Cespedes will sit out in 2020, it could make it that much more difficult for a team that already may be spending above its comfort zone to invest money into weaker areas of the roster. Furthermore, there’s a case that even a healthy Cespedes would be superfluous to New York’s roster. The club’s in fine shape at both corner outfield spots, where it boasts Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo as regulars. Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith (who looks like a trade candidate) also played those spots frequently in 2019 and more than held their own offensively.
If there’s one place the Mets could upgrade in the outfield, it’s in center, though Cespedes wouldn’t be able to help there. And if Cespedes’ injuries and age make him a subpar outfield option in general nowadays, there’d be no clear place to put him on a team that has NL Rookie of the Year front-runner Pete Alonso manning first and isn’t part of a league that features a designated hitter.
While the Mets were undoubtedly excited to re-up Cespedes three years ago after he opted out of his previous deal with the club, his presence has been disastrous for a large portion of the contract. Cespedes’ money could help prevent the Mets from improving their roster to the fullest extent possible this offseason as they try to break a three-year playoff drought in 2020.