It is no surprise at all that Yoenis Cespedes has decided to opt out of his three year deal with the Mets after year one. After all, the whole idea of that option was to allow him to jump back into the free agent pool were he to have a big impressive 2016 season. And he most certainly did that.
The Mets are probably hoping that history will repeat itself in that he, like last off season, will get no big money long term offers and will scurry back to Queens. This is exceedingly unlikely since the player has shown us that what he did for the Mets after the trade deadline in 2015 was not just a flash in the pan. He was not just a good player that elevated his game to excellent but rather he is in that next plateau which is star player bordering on superstar.
Cespedes immediately becomes the premiere offensive player in the 2016/2017 free agent class. Teams like the Red Sox (freed of Big Papi Ortiz’s salary) and the Yankees (with Mark Teixeira off the books) figure to be among many suitors for his services.
I am inclined to believe Cespedes when he says that he has loved playing for the Amazins. It is even possible that he would sign back in New York if they gave him a competitive offer. It is just hard to imagine that the Mets will give him as many years and as many dollars as others might.
So what should the Mets do without their best offensive weapon?
Not paying Cespedes $25 million this coming year would make it easier to offer Neil Walker the Qualifying Offer which is just over $17 million. Assuming the medical reports on his health and rehab are favorable the Mets give Walker the QO and then perhaps see if he would be interested in a three year deal for something between $42 and $45 million.
The Cespedes saving also clarifies the decision as to whether to tender a contract to Lucas Duda. Again, if the docs say he will be good to go then the team will need his power bat in the lineup. It still would be a good idea to give Michael Conforto and maybe Jay Bruce some spring training work at first base.
So the team on the field would look like:
SS Asdrubal Cabrera with Reyes as his backup. I would like to be wrong about this but predict that during 2017 Reyes will play more games at short than will Cabrera.
3B David Wright. We all know that counting on the captain for anything during the rest of his career is a fool’s bet. It is more likely that Reyes, Flores, or T.J. Rivera will play the position.
LF Granderson. Let’s try to keep his spaghetti arm out of right field if possible.
CF Juan Lagares/Brandon Nimmo. This would be a position where GM Alderson should be on the lookout for help. He should be hoping to land a good version of Justin Ruggiano. More likely he will end up with the actual Justin Ruggiano.
RF Jay Bruce. Conforto should get time at both outfield corners and at first base.
If indeed Cespedes moves on the Mets need to jump on the opportunity to fix a misalligned defense and pour the dollars not going to the player back into the team.