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New York Mets: The Case for Yoenis Cespedes
So the 2015 Mets are National League Champions.
I know that’s not news since that happened months ago but I find myself looking at that fact and wondering if it was a huge fluke. Now I know I haven’t written a blog in quite some time but let me remind you that I am a huge Mets fan and I have been since 1979 when I was 6 years old and enjoyed watching Craig Swan pitch in a mostly empty Shea Stadium on Channel 9 WWOR TV.
I watch baseball, Mets baseball, and I have for over 30 years so I remember what worked and what didn’t. Last season DID NOT WORK. Let’s repeat that a few times.
It did not WORK.
It did NOT WORK.
It DID NOT WORK.
IT DID NOT WORK.
Now That’s Out of the Way…
We had some major injuries and with almost no depth, our amazing rotation was being wasted and we all knew it. How many games did we watch where the pitching was awesome but the lineup managed a run or two. We all know how the season was going – it was barely a .500 team. Quad A players littered the lineup and were getting major at-bats. No disrespect to the Muno’s and Campbell’s of the world but they were simply overmatched. And the Mets could do nothing about it.
Until they traded for Uribe and Johnson from the Braves…
That said, the team changed for good once it landed Cespedes. He instantly transformed the lineup around him that was also getting healthier. At the same time as adding Cespedes, the Mets called up Michael Conforto and got David Wright and Travis d’arnaud back from the disabled list. Clearly they all made a difference but make no mistake, having Cespedes in the lineup scared opposing pitchers. He made Daniel Murphy instantly better as Murphy feasted on a constant diet of fastballs for the rest of the season and the playoffs.
Then he got hurt and simply wasn’t useful in the World Series. If you’re going to hold against him the small sample that was the 6-week wrecking ball he was in August and September, surely you also need to do the same with a 5-game sample where he was clearly hurt and nowhere near the same player.
Did he make mistakes in center field? Sure, he’s not a trained center fielder. He also made some amazing throws from center field as well. Does he want a lot of money? Sure he does. You know why? In 4-years, his 162 game average production is 30 home runs and 103 rbis with a .271 average. In this era, that’s elite production.
So, yeah, maybe he takes a bit of getting used to. Once in a while he doesn’t look very interested in running. I don’t like it any more than you do but the 97% effort he puts out is great and would still help out the lineup around him.
Replacement Parts.... Not Really
So the 2015 Mets are National League Champions and they lost their most powerful weapon. So who else is scared of Alejandro De Aza?
Yeah that’s what I thought.
Daniel Murphy has moved on and the Mets made a great move to replace him with Neil Walker who provides essentially the same bat and a better glove while also being cheaper than Murphy. That was a great move.
Then we went out and got Asdrubal Cabrera because, well, I don’t really know why. Is he that much of an upgrade over Wilmer Flores (who costs nothing right now)? Cabrera hit 15 home runs with 58 rbis and hit .265. Flores hit a nearly identical 16 home runs with 59 rbis and hit .263. In the field, Cabrera had 9 errors in 1141 innings for a fielding percentage of .980. Flores had 14 errors in 835 innings (this does not count his work at 2nd base where he recorded 0 errors in 292 innings) for a fielding percentage of .965. If you remember though several of those were throwing errors early in the season and really, these numbers aren’t too different either. So why did we pay Cabrera to replace Flores? Factor in that Walker is a better glove than Murphy and you already have a better infield so I really didn’t understand this move.
Then we decided to sign Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center field. If forcing Cespedes to play center field was like “forcing a round peg in square hole”, why do it again with an inferior player who also doesn’t play center field. We gave this guy $5.75m and I can’t understand why anyone would do so. I don’t care if he hit’s righties well, that just means he doesn’t hit lefties well enough. Why put money into him at all?
Bartolo's Back Baby!!
We also resigned Bartolo Colon which was a spectacular move to solidify the rotation, and later the bullpen while also providing a mentor to the younger players AND the Latin players.
Not A New Theory But...
So here is my theory which isn’t a real stretch so I’m sure others have thought this through. Put Granderson in center field and sign Cespedes, along with his rocket arm and thunderous bat to play right field where he would be more comfortable and useful. We all know Granderson does not have a great arm but if you believe he’s speedy enough to be your lead-off man, you have to believe he can still cover the ground in center field. You long-time fans out there probably remember a much loved player from our championship past manning center field with a weak arm.
If you remember Foster, Mookie and Strawberry out in the outfield then you can see where I’m going here. We all believe Michael Conforto is the real deal so he’s solid in left field. Granderson can continue to hit lead off and man center field. Cespedes replaces Strawberry (odd how much they parallel each other at times) with a cannon in right and carrying the big stick.
Juan Lagares becomes a very good fourth outfielder. I understand he’s getting paid well but you keep him or trade him if you need to. I, personally, like Lagares very much but he clearly needs a bit more time to develop. Why not allow him to be the late game replacement for CF and De Aza can be the replacement for the corners when needed.
Mets fans and management can’t be content to let half a season slip away before making moves at the trading deadline. If there was a way to let your fan-base know you’re apathetic, this is the way to do it. There is way too much money that was made by the Mets in the second half and post-season last year to not invest in a real bat to support the amazing young pitching they have put together.
So the lineup could look like this:
CF Granderson L
2B Walker L/R
3B Wright R
RF Cespedes R
1B Duda L
C d’Arnaud R
SS Cabrera L/R
LF Conforto L
Something like this would give Terry Collins a diversified lineup that actually looks like a Major League-ready lineup. It protects Conforto at the bottom of the lineup where I still think he'll produce well. It includes Cespedes in RF but that could just as easily be Justin Upton (who may be even better - but we already love Yo, so I made this blog about him!). Yes, Cespedes is expensive but if you can get him for 3-4 years at a reasonable price you do it knowing Granderson comes off the books in 2 years, when you'll need to start planning to pay this pitching staff a bit more money. The ownership needs to continue building it's fan-base's trust and so far, it hasn't.
I hope 2015 wasn't a fluke.....