Since his defense was as good as his offense in 2015, Yoenis Cespedes had a monster year, recording a 6.7 fWAR. His defense was not as good in 2016, as his numbers in CF were worse than expected, and he posted a 3.2 fWAR. After the 2015 season, no one was willing to give Cespedes a $100 million contract without having a large portion of the money deferred. After the 2016 season, he got the mega deal, with an average annual value of $27.5 million, tied for the second-largest MLB rate of all-time. And not only are there no deferrals, Cespedes also got a no-trade clause.
Cespedes is a fun guy to have on your team. He has upper deck power, a strong accurate arm and he’s a good runner. He’s also yet to put up an elite year just on the strength of his offense alone. As Name has pointed out, Cespedes’ 2015-16 offensive production – the best of his career – is nearly identical to Lucas Duda’s 2014-15 offensive production on a rate basis. And no one wants to give Duda a $100 million contract.
Yet few were complaining when the Mets re-upped with Cespedes. Neil Walker finished with a higher fWAR than Cespedes and many fans balked at paying him $10 million-plus fewer dollars on a one-year contract. Somehow it doesn’t add up. So, let’s see if we expect Cespedes to up either his offensive or defensive game here in 2017.
Our offensive OPS numbers are tightly packed, with a high of .885, which is certainly a nice total. If he produced that last year, that would have been tied for the 21st-best OPS in the majors. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at but is it worth $27.5 million a year?
Looking at defense, only four of the 11 participants expect him to post a double-digit UZR/150 total, with Matt having the highest at 15.7. In his Gold Glove season of 2015, Cespedes had a 14.5 total in this category. But Joe and John project him to be below average in the field again in 2017. There’s a lot more variability in what we expect out of Cespedes defensively.
Here is our official forecast:
An .867 OPS and a 2.7 UZR/150 and let’s say he improves upon last year’s baserunning, too. So that would be a ballpark 4.5-5.0 fWAR type of season. It’s not quite 2015 but it would be a noticeable improvement from what he produced in 2016, while he was battling a quad injury. Since fans were happy with his output last year, you would expect they would be happy to see this type of improvement. But what does Steamer think?
Ouch, that’s not particularly close to our forecast at all. Additionally, Steamer projects Cespedes to finish with a 2.7 fWAR. Let’s hope that our forecast turns out to be reality. Otherwise, it could be a long four years with the Mets having long-term heavy obligations to an under-producing Cespedes to go along with an under-producing David Wright.