Mets fans. We can not rest until the Mets resign superstar slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
The window of contention is now, the Mets should have room for Cespedes as a big-market team with a mid-market payroll, and there is no other viable way of improving this team right now. Cespedes is the answer.
A. Cespedes is a star and was the best player on the Mets last year.
Cespedes put up 3.2 WAR(fangraphs) and 2.9 WAR(baseball-reference) last year, placing either 1st or 2nd on the Mets in that metric despite playing only 132 games, and many of them while injured or being asked to play out of position.
For the traditionalists, Cespedes hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs and 86 RBI, increasing his walk rate to a career-high 9.4% and striking out only 19.9% of the time. Over the last two year combined, he’s hit .286/.340/.537 with 66 home runs in 291 games, so we can fairly say that this improvement is for real.
Cespedes also put up last year’s numbers while hurt, and while being asked to make 61 starts out of position in center field. Cespedes put up +4 DRS and +3.9 UZR in left field last year in 550 innings (and for his career is a +10 or better left fielder) but had his overall figures (and his overall WAR totals) dragged down by a -7 DRS/-10.6 UZR when playing center field.
Are there at least some concerns about Cespedes moving forward? Absolutely. He was injured last year, he is 31 years old, and he has well-documented issues laying off certain kinds of pitches. But none of this changes the facts: the team signing Cespedes will be getting a super-athletic star for his age 31-35(ish) seasons.
The Mets were 72-54 in Cespedes starts last year, which means they were 15-21 without him. The Mets were 37-21 last year after he was acquired. Per baseball-reference, he drove in 86 runs last year where an average major leaguer would have driven in 61. There can be no argument on this.
B. There is no single adequate replacement on the free agent market.
Edwin Encarnacion is a DH. Justin Turner is fine, but he’s 32 and where does he play? Mark Trumbo? Jose Bautista? Ian Desmond? Dexter Fowler has put up 8 WAR over the last two years and has established himself as a legitimate first-division starter, but he’s more of a table setter, and he’s only four months younger than Cespedes. I think Fowler may end up being the free agent deal of the winter, but he’s not the player that Cespedes is at his best.
There is no single player that helps the Mets as much as Cespedes, although a combination of those players or other creative means might improve the team just as much. But does anyone think the Mets will acquire more than one top-flight free agent and have a position to play them in? For instance, Fowler and Desmond are both good players but where does Desmond play? And the financial commitment to Fowler and Desmond combined would exceed that of Cespedes.
C. Mets window for contention is now, and payroll is not high enough.
The Mets are out of excuses. The fanbase as a whole was fairly patient during the rebuild. The fanbase as a whole still went to the park when the team was awful. The fanbase as a whole gave the Wilpons way more slack than they deserved because we Mets fans, we’re optimists.
But the Mets made a run to the World Series last year. The Mets had the 9th highest attendance in MLB last year, but 9th (at 34,870 per game) and 6th (at 37,819 per game) were separated by less than 10%. The Mets rank 6th on Forbes MLB Team Valuations list.
According to Howard Megdal, the Mets 2015 playoff run and the insurance on the David Wright contract netted to a profit of $45 million to $60 million last year. The Mets TV ratings were better than those of the Yankees for the first time ever in 2016, and did so by a whopping 20% and hosted a home Wild Card Game in 2016.
They have the money, and they are on the record as promising to increase payroll when attendance went back up.
Right now the Mets rank 15th in 2017 payroll commitments according to Spotrac. The Mets Opening Day payrolls for the 2013-2016 seasons combined ranked 18th in MLB, while their Opening Day payroll in 2016 was 14th.
It’s time for the Mets to pay up. They should spend wisely of course — but there is no excuse for the team not to take advantage of this window of opportunity.
So that’s it. The Mets need Cespedes, and unless his market goes absolutely crazy they should end up as the high bidder for his services. If they don’t get Cespedes, they’ll need to make several moves in order to get this team where it needs to be and where the fanbase deserves it to be.
Email the Mets and let them know what you expect. Email the Mets and let them know those season tickets aren’t getting renewed until we see a commitment from them to winning: http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/help/email.jsp?c_id=nym
I am not mad at them yet, I am not going to criticize them yet, because nothing has happened yet (aside from picking up the Jay Bruce option, but that’s another story). But it is time to let them know what we expect. Go get Cespedes, and don’t stop there.
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Brian Mangan is a lifelong Mets fan, native New Yorker, and attorney living in New York City.