Yoenis Cespedes isn’t worth a mega deal

Yoenis CespedesBefore the tragedy that was game four transpired Saturday night, the buzz around baseball was that the New York Mets would not bring back outfielder Yoenis Cespedes next year.

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.

19 comments for “Yoenis Cespedes isn’t worth a mega deal

  1. Matty Mets
    November 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    His awful World Series performance is a huge part of why we lost. Alderson loves power hitters and when he’s at his best, Ces transforms the lineup. Problem is he doesnt draw walks, leg out singles, hustle a single into a double, go opposite field or lay down a bunt or steal a base. When he’s not hot he’s a strikeout machine and rally killer. A very talented player who may always underperform. As you correctly pointed out, there’s a reason he keeps changing teams. That said, right handed cleanup hitters are scarce – how do we replace him?

    • November 2, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      Kansas City was able to sign Morales this past off season to replace Butler at DH. Matty I don’t think it’s impossible to do. Payroll should be higher with revenue from the playoffs. Between Colon,Murphy,Gee (non-tendered) and Parnell you have almost 30 million off the books. Trade Niese and Cuddyer (eat a portion of his $) and you start the 2016 with a payroll at about 40 million.

  2. Doug
    November 2, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Forgive me for quibbling, but I just don’t see the need to refer to Cespedes as “the Cuban” in this story. His nationality is not germane to the discussion…

    • lanzarishi
      November 5, 2015 at 8:42 am

      I totally concur. And it’s not only here that we read this. Every story refers to him as “the Cuban” It’s pretty sad how unprofessional media can be. In private it may be ok with friends but not in this scenario.

  3. November 2, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Mike what natural instincts? His base running instincts are atrocious. His misplayed routine fly ball changed the entire complexity of the series. And that was on the first pitch of the series! He took a cortisone shot before the WS began. I blame TC for allowing Cespedes to talk him into playing CF when he wasn’t 100%. You’ve got a GG CF on the bench. Cespedes should of DHed in KC. In order to win you have to be strong defensively up the middle. It’s not like Cespedes played CF every day in Oakland, Boston or Detroit .Cespedes was playing for what will be his last opportunity at a mega deal. He played lights out and was instrumental in getting the Met’s into the playoffs. After that, the pitching got tougher and Cespedes didn’t bother to make any adjustments. He would rather strike out than take a walk. Not a very heads up player. I hope management passes on him and looks elsewhere to beef up the offense. So if your willing to watch a 260 hitter with 200 strikeouts who hits on occasion a monster home run or a terrific throw to get a base runner then by all means let SA sign him.There’s a reason why he’s played on 4 teams in three years. Kinda reminds me of Puig from the Dodgers.

    • November 3, 2015 at 9:59 am

      “what natural instincts?”
      Cespedes has unbelievable raw tools. He has plus power, plus speed, can make contact and can catch a ball. As I said in the article, he’s unrefined and can be a prima donna. He’s almost always swinging for the fences, which leads to strikeouts. We’ve watched him not bust it out of the box. He can physically play center, but it’s definitely not his strongest position. When he’s hot, his raw talent makes him the most dangerous hitter in baseball. When he’s not, he’s an automatic out trying to play a new position.

      • November 3, 2015 at 9:27 pm

        Raw tools are what would normally be associated with rookies. Not with a 30 year old player.He’s not going to change his ways and TC will cover for him every time he makes a bonehead play. There’s a reason why he has played on 4 teams in 2 years.

  4. Metsense
    November 3, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Cespedes had a career best 6.3 bWAR. His next two bWAR seasons were 4.1 and 3.9. It would not be unreasonable to project 4.0 bWAR for the next few seasons. MLBTR estimates a WAR at $6.5m. A 4.0 WAR salary is $26m or 6/156. I think they can get him for less. He is a five tool, 30 yoa, middle of the order bat that adequately plays a premier position and would be replacing our weakest offensive player. I’d try to sign him.

  5. November 3, 2015 at 3:08 am

    Metsense at what price? How high will the Wilpons go? 7/147 Knowing that the last 2? years are premium risk/reward? Cespedes loves the spotlight. Doesn’t get any bigger than NY.

  6. Metsense
    November 3, 2015 at 9:05 am

    I would try to get him at the 6 years like he wants but the 7 year contract is the probability. In their age 30 contracts, Ellsbury got 7/153 off a 5.7 bWAR season with a highwater 8.1 bWAR two years earlier. Choo got 7/130 coming off a 4.3 bWar with a highwater 5.9 bWAR two years earlier. It could take 7/175 to get this done. This is the market that is out there. I would rather the money be in Cespedes pocket than the Wilpon’s.
    The Mets could use an upgrade at SS and LHB CF. If the $25m could be used to significantly improve this problem then I am all ears, but until then, I see Cespedes at the cleanest solution.

    • November 3, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Let’s take a look at those two players.
      Choo was a very pedestrian player in 2014 with a 1.4 oWAR before compiling a 4.7 oWAR in 2015. His fielding costs more runs than it saved in both seasons. He turns 33 in July, gets a $6 million raise from his 2014 $14 million salary and will make $21 million when the contract expires after 2020 at age 38.

      Ellsbury had a promising start with the rival Yankees in 2014 with a 3.7 oWAR to go along with a surprising 0.0 dWAR. 2015 was trouble as leg injuries started to affect a speed player (Jose Reyes anyone?). He still accumulated 500 plate appearances in 111 games but only picked up a 1.8 oWAR and 0.4 dWAR. Just turning 32 in September, he’s making $21 million a year until 2020, and the team holds a $21 million team option for $21 million.

      Both of these were long-term, expensive gambles that are already showing signs of being busts. We’ve also seen Cespedes in the postseason, and even in the regular season when he’s not hot. I’ve seen enough.

    • November 3, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      How about Justin Heyward? He’s only 26. Say for 4 years with the same annual dollars you listed

      • November 4, 2015 at 12:54 am

        I looked at Heyward. Problem is he’s not really a CF, more a RF. He’s also had some mediocre seasons with the Braves. Gotta hope he’s really put it together if you’re going to move Granderson to CF for him.

  7. November 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Look at how those contracts for Ellsbury and Choo worked out. They are awful, and that is with Choo having a bounce-back 2015 for the Rangers.

    Cespedes is not a good player. He misplayed not just the ITP HR to Escobar, but the double for Perez in Game 4. That play goes unnoticed given the 8th inning collapse, but it was the first run for KC in that game, and got Matz removed from that game earlier than he should have. He whiffed at nearly everything thrown his way in the playoffs when teams exploited him with low breaking balls and high heat.

    Cespedes’ OPS went from .861 in 2012 to .737 to .751 and then .870 in 2015. 2015 was his career best in games, AB’s, HR, RBI, and Runs. Which guy is the real Cespedes? It is probably closer to the 2013 and 2014 numbers than the 2012 and 2015.

    This is the definition of a bad contract waiting to happen. The Mets will have Conforto and Granderson in the OF corners. They need a CF, and we know that is not Cespedes.

    They would be better off with shorter term (and smaller dollar) contracts with guys like Colby Rasmus or Denard Span. Even Dexter Fowler on a bit longer deal. Then again, what’s wrong with Lagares? With Conforto’s power for a full season, we have less of a need for that. They could use Lagares’ defense.

    If the Mets are going to spend, it should be on a middle infielder, and the bullpen. They could move Flores to 2B if they get a SS (Desmond). Flores could also become a super- utility player, backing up all of the infield positions.

    The Mets need to be smart with their money, and chasing Cespedes would not be smart.

  8. Jim OMalley
    November 3, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    So let’s talk about Lagares for a moment. Does he need surgery to fix his throwing arm? Is that happening this off-season? Is so, when does he figure to return?

    The situation with Lagares is crucial to figuring out the situation with Cespedes.

    • November 4, 2015 at 12:57 am

      Back in June he was diagnosed with an elbow injury, but the team was trying to avoid surgery. Gotta wonder if they’ll go for TJ now that the season is over. Good news is it’s a much shorter recovery period for position players than pitchers.

  9. November 4, 2015 at 1:48 am

    Cespedes is a known quantity and I understand that. It’s his infatuation with himself that I just don’t see him being worth the contract (25 million per). I wonder how many days he’ll have when he just doesn’t feel like playing. I’m concerned over how he will play once he gets his contract for life. Cespedes ia an older version of Puig. Will he live up to a 150-175 million dollar contract? I sincerely doubt it. Will the Met’s win a WS with him? Well we just saw what happened. Didn’t we?.

  10. lanzarishi
    November 5, 2015 at 8:49 am

    I also feel that something occurred back in the regular season that may have started his decline towards the WS. Whether or not it was getting HBP or his golfing, something was responsible. This guy was literally on fire until he went silent. To me he also seemed very nervous or scared of being on the big stage. This is not an easy profession and facing the media and 55,000 fans every single night is no joke. People have nervous breakdowns due to this regardless if he’s making 150 million dollars. It isn’t the point. Human beings are human beings regardless. The central nervous system reacts without any of our demands.

  11. blaiseda
    November 9, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Cespedes quit in the post season when things got tough for him. He was in full diva mode. He cost us game 1 when he wasn’t ready to field the first pitch. His downside is way worse then his upside.

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