Cespedes, 34, has become something of a forgotten figure in the Mets’ plans over the previous two years, and it’s easy to see why. He hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since July of 2018 thanks to ongoing injury issues. Assuming he is indeed able to take the field on Opening Day, it’s up for debate just how big a role he will play with the 2020 Mets, but one has to think he’ll be given ample opportunity to prove his worth to the club.
While the team has constructed a solid lineup and a good outfield despite Cespedes’s long-term absence, his return would nevertheless be a promising development for the club. Especially given the unique circumstances under which the 2020 season will be played, it can’t hurt to have a former MVP candidate at your disposal. And with just 60 games on the slate, the added depth will be as important as ever.
With the National League set to play with 2020 season with a Designated Hitter in the lineup, Cespedes should have plenty of opportunities to get at-bats, whether in left field or at DH. That said, it figures that manager Luis Rojas will want to deploy him in a timeshare at either spot, with J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith having earned their share of playing time too; neither has the lengthy resume that Cespedes boasts, but both have proven reliable more recently.
We’ll have to wait and see how quickly Cespedes can re-adjust to the challenges of facing Major League pitching in a game setting, and it’s certainly reasonable to temper expectations for his return to action. He’ll almost surely have trouble replicating the results that earned him a four-year, $110MM contract in 2017, but his experience might quicken the acclimation period. To be sure, welcoming Cespedes back to the team could yield considerable benefits for the Mets; reintroducing a slugger of Cespedes’s ilk to one of the stronger lineups in the National League could be the boost the Mets need to enter the NL’s upper echelon.
Either way, the Mets will think of Cespedes less as a franchise cornerstone and more as a wild card, especially since an amended contract lessened the team’s obligations to him and shifted his 2020 earnings to an incentive-heavy arrangement. The ceiling is still high if he hits the ground running, but there won’t be as much of a sunk cost if he fails to return to his previous form.