And after playing a trick on a packed Citi Field with a Halloween base-running gaffe to give the Kansas City Royals a commanding 3-1 lead in the 2015 World Series, I can comfortably say he was never worth the dollars to which he’s been linked.
The 30-year-old Cuban native did have some incredible success as a Met. He posted a .287/.337/.604 slash in 57 games with New York, smashing 17 home runs. That’s the most prodigious power in his four-year, four-team career. There have a few nice plays in the field too, like this shoestring grab against the Colorado Rockies.
Cespedes was a major part of the Mets second-half revival. Of course, so were Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, David Wright and Michael Conforto, but the outfielder was the splashy name and continues to receive most of the credit.
Few blinked an eye when reports surfaced his agent sought a six-year contract worth $20 million or more annually. Mets fans and New York media bantered back and forth about signing such a deal as player and team agreed in September to remove a barrier limiting his current club from re-signing him. Some hoped that would open the door to an expensive three-year deal, while others called for a cheaper, long-term deal and some demanded Mets top brass simply pay the man. He’s currently earning $10.5 million this year and someone may still double his salary.
Back when the Mets were surging in September, powered by Cespedes, there were concerns in the back of my mind it was too risky to tie up so much of the franchise’s future in this one player, and he’s proving it with this postseason performance.
As gaudy as his numbers are, the Cuban native does have some chinks in the armor. Throughout the outfielder’s career, he’s proven to do more damage earlier against junkballers. Cespedes’ batting average dips below .250 and his OPS drops to .731 in the final three innings throughout his career. His .289 batting average against starters is significantly higher than his .237 career batting average against relievers. A prolific strikeout machine, Cespedes sports just a .532 OPS career-long when hitting with two strikes. He also sees finesse pitchers better than power pitchers, accumulating a .903 OPS to a .724 OPS.
Some of this has come to life again in 2015, although his overall offensive numbers for the World Series are absolutely disgusting with a mere .297 OPS. Cespedes is hitting better throughout the game this season than his career average, but a .990 OPS proves he still favors innings 4-6. His long-time success against finesse pitching is still prevalent, although he’s also hitting power pitching significantly better this year. And although the Cuban is still whiffing frequently, his OPS after two strikes has climbed to a still-disappointing .645.
Cespedes has had some clutch hits against both the soft-tossing sort and the Guy Montag-fireballers. Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke can get plenty of strikeouts and groundballs with a wide variety of pitches like a 92 mph fourseam fastball, 89 mph changeup and 87 mph slider, but the Mets outfielder took him deep. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm throws relatively hard with a 96 mph fourseam fastball and an 84 mph curve, but Cespedes punched an RBI single off Grimm.
But little of that matters compared to the bigger picture. The 30-year-old has more strikeouts than hits this postseason (11 hits and 13 strikeouts), and many of his eight RBI have not come against elite caliber opposition. He did hit a solo bomb against Greinke, but he also hit a three-run homer off Alex Wood, a young, mediocre reliever. Against the Cubs, Cespedes tagged unusually-hittable ace Jake Arrieta for an RBI single and middle-of-the-rotation starter Kyle Hendricks for a two-RBI double. His last RBI came on a sacrifice fly against reliever Franklin Morales, a journeyman enjoying a career year with the Royals. While teammate Daniel Murphy was spanking home runs against the like of Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Arrieta and Jon Lester, the expensive slugger is wearing out a path to the bench.
And then there’s everything else. Cespedes reportedly injured his shoulder doing pushups in the hotel room, he dropped a fly ball for an inside-the-bark job in the first World Series game and was then tagged off first to end game four. I still haven’t figured out where he was running because even if Murphy wasn’t clogging the base paths at second, he stole seven bases in 2015, including one in this postseason.
Yoenis Cespedes has incredible raw power and speed, but that’s as far as he seemingly goes. The outfielder could be on the level of Mike Trout if he polished those natural instincts with experience in the game. Instead, his bat sometimes runs into the ball with that pure talent but it comes with more than 143 strikeouts and just 42 walks a season.
The Mets ownership would be better of spending that $20 million divvying it up among current players and free agents, especially with fans fighting to keep Murphy as super utility player backing up Wright and manning second.