Injuries have derailed Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes’ career over the past couple seasons, but the 34-year-old is finally progressing toward a return to a major league diamond. On Monday, Cespedes tweeted a video of himself sprinting, swinging a bat and catching a fly ball at the Mets’ spring training headquarters in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (hat tip to Matt Kelly of MLB.com)
While it may not sound like much, any footage of Cespedes performing baseball activities is encouraging at this point. The injury-riddled Cespedes has gone from star to afterthought dating back to 2017, having appeared in a meager 119 regular-season games since then. He didn’t play past July in 2018 and didn’t suit up at all last year on account of foot problems. Cespedes fractured his right ankle in May as a result of a dust-up with, of all things, a wild boar at his ranch in Port St. Lucie.
If there’s a silver lining for the Mets, it’s that Cespedes’ boar battle did lead to some financial relief for them. The team stopped paying his salary for 2019 sometime last season, and the two sides reached an agreement on an amended contract back in December. Consequently, New York will shell out $6MM to Cespedes this year instead of the $29.5MM he was supposed to earn. That’s a positive development for the club’s books, but it’s obviously not the outcome the Mets envisioned when they re-signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110MM deal before the 2017 season.
Cespedes is now going into the last season of his pact, though it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll come close to resembling the player he was before his health troubles arose. It’s also up in the air just how much playing time Cespedes will garner in 2020, as the Mets have a strong mix of other corner outfield-capable players (Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith) and could add yet another starting-caliber OFer in trade target Starling Marte. There’s also no designated hitter role for Cespedes to fall back on, and he can’t make a regular shift to first base with NL Rookie of the Year winner Pete Alonso entrenched at the position.