Yoenis Cespedes: How much and for how long?

Yoenis CespedesIt can’t be denied that the most consistent offensive weapon for the 2016 New York Mets was Yoenis Cespedes. The player batted .280, banged out 31 home runs, and put up an OPS of 884 which is impressive anywhere but doubly so in the pitcher friendly environment of Citi Field.

Bloggers, newspersons, and callers to sports talk radio all agree that job one for the Mets this off season is to bring back Cespedes. The callers to radio shows like to say that he must be brought back “at all costs” which I’ve always felt is silly. Teams have budgets and the Mets are about as budget-conscious as an MLB team can be.

While it is crucial that the Mets attempt to bring Cespedes back for 2017 and beyond we should take a look at what would be a fair deal for both sides.

Setting the groundwork we should first look at where things stand at the moment. In 2016 there were only four players who took home a higher salary than did Cespedes:

Clayton Kershaw $32.8 million
David Price $30.5
Miguel Cabrera $30.0
Justin Verlander $28.6

My source for the above info lists Cespedes as receiving $28.1 million for this past season while Baseball Reference differs and writes that it was $27.5. That figure likely comes from the $25 million he made in salary and his opt out which immediately forces the team to cut him an additional check for $2.5 million.

Of course a dream scenario for the Mets would be Cespedes deciding that he is so happy being a Met that he would be happy to play the last two years of his deal at the already decided upon figure of $25 million per season.

Alas, this is most unlikely. The opt out provision was put in there primarily to allow the player to become a free agent once again should he have a particularly fine season. The extra bonus here is the fact that this is not considered a strong free agent class which would make Cespedes the absolute pick of the litter. A bidding war could drive his annual salary into the stratospheric $28-$32 million range.

Before speculating on how the Mets would approach this negotiation we should try to objectively determine how good he was in 2016 and what the next few years hold for a player who reaches his 31st birthday in a few days (October 18th).

Like all other batters not named Mike Trout, Cespedes has some flaws. While he is a fearsome power hitter and an outfielder possessing a howitzer arm he somewhat handcuffs the Mets with his preference for playing left field. The Mets have outfielders already who should be playing left: Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto. Plus an extra complication is that the team will likely pick up the option for right fielder Jay Bruce.

The Mets fan base can get a bit annoyed with Cespedes’ tendency to run hard only sometimes. These days he is hardly alone in that trait, but still…

What is surprising to this writer is how Cespedes’ offensive stats and power arm did not lead to a real high WAR (wins above replacement) using either the Fan Graphs formula (2.9 WAR) or that used by Baseball Reference (3.2). Generally a player needs a WAR of around five or higher to be considered of All Star quality. Trout’s WAR at Baseball Ref was a ridiculous 10.6. Daniel Murphy’s, even with his limited range dragging him down, was at 4.6. Clearly Cespedes has taken a step or two back on the defensive side of the ball.

So what will Sandy Alderson and Jeff Wilpon do when Cespedes opts out? Alderson has always been wary of long term deals and especially so if a player is on the wrong side of 30. The long term deals for people like Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and others have to scare off ownership from going all in even on a franchise player like Cespedes.

My guess is that they start with a four year offer for about $112 million which is an average of $28 million per season. If the player loves the city and his teammates as much as he says then that might be enough.

If some other team chooses to go a lot higher than that then the Mets should reluctantly let him walk. In that case they need to plow most, if not all, of the money saved into filling the gaping offensive hole his absence will have left.

9 comments for “Yoenis Cespedes: How much and for how long?

  1. footballhead
    October 15, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I would be willing to go five years at 28 million….$140 total. Or why not offer him $30 million for the upcoming year, with the same opt out provision after the 2017 season? I personally wouldn’t want to drag this out till spring training, I would offer this now. I’d like to know how I would deal with the rest of the roster before then. I know this is off topic, but why would the Mets even think about moving Conforto to first? If anyone OF should move to try being a first basemen, it should be Bruce. Let Bruce and Duda fight it out there at first, with the loser ( Duda’s back, Bruce’s inability to switch); become trade bait.

  2. Metsense
    October 15, 2016 at 11:13 am

    The Mets need his right handed bat in the middle of the order to balance the left handed power hitters. In 2016 they committed to $25M per year for the next three years. $25M is the highest salary for an outfielder.He will actually make 27.5M in 2016 when he opts out. It is obvious that the Mets can afford this annual expenditure. Alderson is astute in not giving long term contracts. Four years at $26.5M is $106M added to this year’s $27.5M will total $133.5M. That is more in 5 years than Justin Upton will receive in a six year deal of $132.75M. Cespedes would be 35 at the start of his free agent year in 2021. Still young enough to get another paycheck.
    From Cespedes point of view, he has established that $25M is the floor on his salary (he is guaranteed two more at that price) and is probably looking for as many years as he can get.
    Cespedes WAR took a hit because he played center field and has poor defensive metrics. He is a gold glove LF and should play there.

  3. Name
    October 15, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Player A: 1150 PA, .249/.350/.483, 57 HRs, 133 OPS+, 134 wRC
    Player B: 1219 PA, .286/.340/.537, 66 HRs, 134 OPS+, 135 wRC

    Player A was Lucas Duda 2014-2015. Player B is Cespedes 2015-2016.

    Anyone who thinks Cespedes offensive production can’t be replaced is sorely mistaken. And now that he’s turning on the wrong side of 30, it makes no sense to give him top 10 kind of money when even in his prime he barely cracks the top 20 hitter list.

  4. October 15, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    With so many lefty power bats on the team, Mets sorely need Cespedes.
    I can see 5 yrs $125m with additional incentives like MVP, All Star, Gold Glove, etc, etc. coming into play. Hopefully that will be enough and the Mets can exhale. He already has $$, and cars, lol…what he does not have is another real home he loves outside of the Mets.
    I cannot understand how this talented cat has been traded so often.
    I am only concerned about the Yankees. That keeps him in NY and he can occasionally be a DH to rest up. If some team is crazy to go 5 years and $150k, well, adios, and good luck. I only hope it is an AL team so that Mets don’t face him like our new Met Killer,Murphy !

    • MattyMets
      October 15, 2016 at 11:52 pm

      Metphin – my thoughts exactly.

  5. Eraff
    October 16, 2016 at 5:58 am

    I believe they will front load the contract and make it longer. …something like 90m for 3 years…. with a 4th year player option at 25, and a 5th year mutual option @ 25, with a team Buyout.

    That would make the total deal 140 for 5 years, and it again puts Ces in the drivers seat for an option on another rich deal when he’s 33, with the security of long term Money.

    If the 5th year option is mutual, with a 10 million team Buyout, he would be guaranteed $125/4 years….an incredible deal that seems to echo and build out on the interests that both sides had duting the last negotiation.

    Ces would be looking at the following:
    3-90…if he opts out
    4- 115…. 125 if Mets buy out the 5th year
    5- 140

    That gets him to a 28 million average, with a Great Player option in the middle of the deal.

    Get et Done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • benne
      October 16, 2016 at 7:27 am

      do it

  6. MattyMets
    October 16, 2016 at 8:56 am

    When? May be the most critical question. There are so many other decisions and moves contingent on whether Yo comes back. We really cannot afford to have “will he or won’t he?” drag on all winter.

  7. Mets Fan Since Nam
    October 16, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Let Cepesdes go just like Murphy which remains in the top 3 Mets all time biggest front office decision making mistakes. It was imperative the Mets keep Murphy given Wright medical injuries, his inability to hit 97 mph fastballs and his lack of range at 3rd base due to the aforementioned injuries. Also, Duda’s prolonged history of slumps was another reason and little did we know he would spend most of 2015 on the DL. If Cepesdes is smart he will depart before the NY press and brutal fans start berating him just like Murphy. To add insult to injury even a Met broadcaster got in on the act criticizing Daniel. Let’s face it, playing baseball in NY is the toughest by far in baseball dating back to the early 1960’s. Both the Dodgers and Giants left NY and both because winners on the west coast. The Mets young pitchers will exit the first day they become free agency eligible, so then what. I said in Nov of 2015 that Neil Walker was a very good player, but would never have the quality potential of Murphy and boy was I ever right. All this subjective scientific WAR garbage is overrated. Murphy made 11 errors in 2016 while playing 3 infield positions out of necessity because of Nat injuries. If Dusty Baker was more than satisfied with his 2B defense that was all I need to know. When Cespesdes toggled between LF and CF it adversely affected his fielding by letting several hit balls drop in front of him. Again, I would love to see him stay with the Mets, but he will wear a defensive target on his back from the organization, fans and press. Murphy, a team player handed it well when moved from 3B to LF to 1B to 2B or twice as much defensively over 7 years. He should win MVP with a .357 avg, most in doubles, highest slugging and OPS. Without him the Nats would have placed 3rd in their division. With Murphy, the Mets would have easily won the East by 8 games. There you have it……..

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