Finding the sweet spot season for Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis CespedesAsk a committed Mets fan what his fondest hopes are for his team in 2016 and he (or she) will likely say: all the starting pitchers stay healthy as do David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud. In addition to that they would want to see the team knock off the Nationals again for the National League East crown. And then they would be hoping for a long successful playoff run resulting in a World Series and ticker tape parade. The End.

Surely to accomplish all that the team will need a significant contribution from center fielder/left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. It would be hard to imagine the Mets going all the way if Cespedes channels his inner Jason Bay (or Michael Cuddyer for that matter) and has a very tepid season.

But the Cespedes story is complicated by the fact that he signed a three year, $75 million deal with the Mets that includes an opt out option for the player at the end of the first year. Should he opt out the Mets, in addition to having paid him $25 mill for the season would kick in a lovely parting gift of $2.5 million.

So now the question becomes how good a season could Cespedes have without triggering a decision on the part of Team Cespedes, meaning him, his family and agents, to take the opt out.

Let’s play with this.

First I recorded the projections from three well respected systems, Pecota, Steamer, and Marcel. With established players they usually all tend to agree on what can be expected of a player. Indeed they all think he will be in the HR range of 26-28, RBI range of 87-91, and an OPS range of 776-812. So really the projections look very much alike.

The average of the projections comes to: 602 plate appearances, 27 homers, 89 RBI, a .266 BA, .311 on base percentage, and .482 slugging percentage. This gives him an OPS of 793. I prefer to toss the decimal point out when discussing that metric.

Now let us look at five scenarios. One is if he hits exactly those projections and the four others include his being over or under them by 10% or 20%.

Cespedes HR RBI BA OBP Slug OPS
plus 20% 32 106 320 373 578 951
plus 10 % 30 98 293 342 530 872
Average 27 89 266 311 482 793
minus 10% 24 80 240 280 434 714
minus 20% 22 71 213 249 385 634

Looking at the worst scenario we see that if he is 20% below the projections he delivers an OPS of 634. To demonstrate how bad that is you only have to know that Cuddyer’s one year with the Amazins resulted in a 699 OPS and this is way worse than that. Should this season happen it is tough to imagine the team reaching the World Series and Cespedes would be insane to opt out of his contract while Mets’ ownership and fandom would likely be praying that he does.

But that is an extreme example.

More plausible is his missing his projection by 10%. His 714 OPS would be a disappointment (right between Jason Bay’s first year OPS of 749 and Cuddyer’s 699) and would make it extremely difficult for the team to win the NL East unless some other people step up big time.

Regarding the opt out I would guess he would not opt out off of that season even though the free agent class for hitters figures to be a weak one. Probably the team and its fans wouldn’t care too much if he did opt out since there would be almost $50 million freed against the 2017 and 2018 payrolls. And when the Mets give Cespedes the Qualifying Offer they would be in position to get a supplementary 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere.

In the next scenario up he comes in right where the projections are predicting. He was likely signed with the idea that this is what he is going to produce. Should he do this the Mets could win the World Series – if many other things go right – and he most likely would opt out or ask Mets management to extend him a year or two more at a salary between $25 and $30 million per season. We know how reticent Sandy Alderson is to offer longer contracts so my guess is that the Mets would not take the player up on the offer.

In the top two scenarios the chance of the Mets having a great season is very much enhanced. The opt out would be surely deployed. The player would undoubtedly move on to greener (pun intended) pastures. But here again money will be freed for payroll and there will be the extra 1st round pick.

So the sweet spot would seem to be Cespedes coming in at his projection or perhaps up to 5% below it. In those situations the player stays and the team has a great chance of succeeding.

16 comments for “Finding the sweet spot season for Yoenis Cespedes

  1. Eraff
    February 10, 2016 at 9:05 am

    I am not Fearing a Great Season by Cespedes..I’m hoping for a Great Season by Cespedes!

    After all, he can negotiate another 3 years…this time at 90 with another 1 year opt out…or whatever.

    He’s the “New” Walter Alston!!!

    • February 10, 2016 at 11:48 am

      I laughed.

      Didn’t the Dodgers go to the World Series in the first year after Alston?

      Anyway, it’s hard to imagine yearly opt outs not being the new norm for big ticket free agents. As long as salaries keep going up, they would be foolish not to lock in a floor with the ability to raise the floor the following year.

      I wonder if owners will look to ban these in the next CBA or if the horse is permanently out of the barn on this one.

      • Eraff
        February 10, 2016 at 11:57 am

        I believe the trade off for the opt outs is a short total contract exposure. In many cases, that serves the interest of both sides of the agreement.

        Cespee Guaranteed himself 75mil…. versus the 100-110 mil “guarantee” (With deferred Money?). Sounds like he’s getting all of his money “real Time”. If he doesn’t fall completely off the shelf, he’s back in the market for his 33, 34,35,etc seasons.

        Well Paid…in the right place at the right time….. I think he made a savvy move with plenty of upside, versus the downside risk—and he’s not going to starve! He’s gambling with House Money.

        Ps.. Walter Alston also won 4 championships…
        http://www.baseball-reference.com/managers/alstowa01.shtml

        • TexasGusCC
          February 10, 2016 at 1:13 pm

          Eraff, I don’t follow.

          If a player can opt out but a team cannot, the team isn’t served, the player is. The only way the team has a benefit is if it’s a team option or at least a mutual option.

          These opt-outs help the players be greedier, but I can see where teams will give a backloaded contract to either entice the player to play out the whole deal or if they leave the team wasn’t screwed as bad. The Mets front loaded it because they wanted Cespedes for one year and then if he left, no problem. If he stays, they will need a new plan.

          I wonder if the language states he cannot play right field…

          • Eraff
            February 10, 2016 at 2:07 pm

            Tex–

            in this specific case, the team allowed for the opt out by the player in exchange for a shorter exposure for the team…and yes, the player did it for the ability to opt out.

            They each served their interests by negotiating around a few “must do’s”.

            This all depends on the specific deal—I have had a low opinion of the Yankee deals with guys like Sabathia—- extraordinary commitments for long periods of time…aaaaand the player gets to opt out along the way. The yanks would find themselves stuck at year 6 of a 10 year deal with big bucks committed….so, that’s a bad deal in my humble opinion.

            This deal was negotiated for the interests of both sides…they found a match.

      • MJ
        February 10, 2016 at 12:44 pm

        You can’t ban opt outs unless the union agrees to it, else that would be collusion. Opt outs are part of a negotiation. If one team does not want to put one in a contract, then they don’t get to sign the player. That is between the team and the player. And forget getting the players union to agree to ban opt outs.Why would they do that when there would be nothing in it for them? That horse is long gone from the barn and is not coming back.

        • February 10, 2016 at 1:44 pm

          Obviously, which is why I mentioned the CBA.

          • Name
            February 10, 2016 at 8:50 pm

            I have no idea why this idea would even cross your mind What is so bad about opt outs?

            Is anyone considering banning team options? After all, it is a team opting out of the contract. Likewise, The media could easily report an opt out as a player option. I haven’t heard any outcry about player options.

            My guess is the next step of contract evolution would be dual team and player options (not mutual options), giving the player the guaranteed money in case he doesn’t play well while allowing the team to keep the player if he has an unexpected breakout

            • February 11, 2016 at 8:08 am

              I don’t think the Dodgers are thrilled with them right now. My guess is the Yankees aren’t doing jumping jacks, either.

              One part of the history of labor issues since the dawn of free agency is the owners looking for concessions from the players to essentially save them from themselves.

              If (and I have no idea if this is true — mere speculation) the owners view this as an issue, then they’ll bring it to the negotiating table.

              • Name
                February 11, 2016 at 6:02 pm

                “I don’t think the Dodgers are thrilled with them right now. My guess is the Yankees aren’t doing jumping jacks, either”

                I would imagine they wouldn’t like it because in the long run if used correctly, opt outs will benefit smaller market teams. Smaller market teams can’t afford to pay big bucks to an aging player. Opt outs solve that issue because, just like with the QO (opt outs are actually like glorified QOs), you will see that every player who gets it will use it and opt out. This allows small market teams to masquerade 6-7 year deals as deals that are really only manageable 2-3 year deals. Then they can let the sucker teams like the Dodgers and Yankees pay the big bucks for the shell of a player.

                “One part of the history of labor issues since the dawn of free agency is the owners looking for concessions from the players to essentially save them from themselves”

                Unless MLB front offices are inept, this should be taken care of already.
                An opt out has value. The player should be paying for that value.
                If teams don’t want to deal with an opt out, guarantee more money and years or negotiate a larger pay cut in exchange for the opt out.

                “If the owners view this as an issue”

                Again, only the big market teams should be worried because opt outs means that more smaller market teams are in play for the bigger free agents. I bet teams like Tampa Bay and Oakland are salivating over how they can use it to their advantage in years to come. If they don’t see this advantage, maybe they should hire me 🙂

  2. Matty Mets
    February 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Let him win the MVP, the triple crown and a gold glove. It’s all about 2016 and that ticker tape parade.

  3. James
    February 10, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Yoenis is going to have a big year. If Curtis can get on base at a high clip like he did last season, then there should be plenty of opportunities for Cespedes to drive in runs. Hopefully he becomes more consistent throughout the year, as it was sad to see him disappear come the playoffs.

  4. February 10, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Well, he had one of those “career year during his contract year” performances and remarkably so. His 2015 fWAR was more than double his previous best in 2014. He ended up a net positive on his defense due to so many innings in LF, though he again was not very good in center.

    I’m hoping for somewhere in between his 2014 and 2015. He had his best wOBA in 2015 since his rookie year, so hopefully he can sustain some level of that. In a way, he just might be this team’s biggest wild card (non-injury division).

  5. Metsense
    February 10, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    If Cespedes can play in 150 games and he plays at his career average he should end the season with 28 homeruns and a 805 OPS. This is not an unreasonable expectation since he is going into his age thirty season. It would put him in your “sweet spot”. It is an interesting concept for an article and an enjoyable read.

    • Larry Smith
      February 10, 2016 at 11:33 pm

      Thanks Metsense. That’s appreciated.

  6. James Preller
    February 11, 2016 at 10:11 am

    The lineup is set to give David Wright the maximum benefit. If he produces, that’s great, it all clicks. If it’s the WS all over again, then it will be hard for Cespedes to thrive.

    The guy hitting in front of Cespedes should have a big year. Think of Murphy. Hopefully Wright has enough in him to maximize this huge opportunity. And if not, hopefully the Mets are smart enough to give that slot to Conforto or Walker.

    I don’t mind Yoenis in cleanup slot, though TC currently has him in the 3 hole.

    Do we miss Bob Geren already?

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