The relative values of Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes

Since the middle of the 2015 season, we’ve seen a spike in home run production. The increase has been so drastic that this past offseason we saw general managers essentially being indifferent to acquiring power. The prevailing thought has been – if everyone has power, why pay a premium for it? On the last day of the 2016 season, if you had suggested publicly that Jay Bruce would have been virtually untradeable and Dexter Fowler would get a 5/$82 deal, you would have been dismissed as crazy.

Flash forward to mid-August and Bruce has a 2.1 fWAR while Fowler checks in with a 1.7 mark. Bruce has played more but Fowler has a long history of injuries so at this point, that’s part of the package. When we look at Bruce and Fowler, their overall value is similar but it comes in different forms. Yet we live in an era where one player gets over $16 million per year and the other gets traded for an A-ball pitcher with a 4.79 ERA.

You can play Fowler in center field but historically he’s been below average and this year he has a (-5.2) UZR and a (-12) DRS. Historically, he’s been a very good OBP guy with solid SB totals. This year he has a .355 OBP and 5 SB. What’s propping up his value right now is a career-high .227 ISO. Yep, everyone seemingly has power.

Which brings us to Yoenis Cespedes.

This offseason he was the exception to the rule that teams weren’t paying for power. There were a bunch of squads interested in Cespedes and he eventually inked a 4/$110 deal. Of course the thought was that Cespedes brought more to the table than just power. He was a Gold Glove Award winner and he could run. Perhaps most importantly was the idea that he was a difference maker in the lineup. His supporters loved to trot out the win-loss record for the Mets with and without Cespedes, as if he singlehandedly transformed the team to play 20-games better.

In 2017, the Mets are 30-35 (.462) when Cespedes starts and 22-27 (.449) when he doesn’t.

To be fair, Cespedes has battled injury problems of his own and has likely played games that he shouldn’t have, ones where he was nowhere close to 100 percent. We see him pick his spots to run hard, as he tries to avoid a repeat of his leg injuries. At least that’s the positive take on the situation. There were always rumors that once he got his contract that he was a risk not to give it all on the field. Here’s what John Harper of the Daily News wrote when Cespedes signed for the 2016 season with the Mets:

They can’t praise the slugger enough now that he’s theirs again but for months they made it clear privately they didn’t trust Cespedes’ motivation to play hard every day if he signed a megabucks deal.

So, the Mets are on the hook for three more years and $87.5 million in a market where teams seemingly aren’t paying for power. Not that Cespedes is producing a ton of that. His .236 ISO is down 15 points from the mark he posted in both 2015 and 2016 and his wOBA has fallen around 20 points to a .348 mark. For comparison, Bruce had a .353 wOBA and Lucas Duda had a .365 mark.

The Mets were okay with sending Bruce and Duda out of town for next to nothing, content to use the money they spent on those two players for other guys in 2018. And seemingly no one has a problem with that. But the idea that they have to pay Cespedes what they do though 2020 gets no scrutiny at all.

As is standard procedure this time of year, the Mets put Cespedes on revocable waivers. Like with most of their players, he went unclaimed, meaning no one was willing to be stuck with that contract. But what if someone claimed him?

Would the Mets have been better off if they let Cespedes go on this mythical waiver claim?

It’s not hard to imagine howls of protest with this idea. What if he wound up on the Nationals? Or even worse, what if he was now a member of the Yankees?!? Too often the optics of a move are around the alleged advantages of the other team, rather than the advantages for the Mets.

Do you think a team is going to offer Bruce 3/$30 this offseason? And which would you rather have, Bruce at that rate and nearly $60 million to apply towards pitching – or whatever you feel the team’s biggest issue is – or Cespedes? Since Cespedes joined the majors in 2012, he’s been the better player than Bruce. Since 2012, he owns a 123 to 109 edge in OPS+ and when we add non-hitting metrics into the equation, the difference only gets bigger.

But Cespedes is no longer a CF, Bruce looked better in the OF since joining the Mets than he did in Cincinnati and the leg injuries really limit Cespedes’ edge on the basepaths. And when the market really undervalues power hitting, Bruce is an extreme value, especially compared to the deal that Cespedes got this past offseason.

Everyone laments the salary that David Wright is getting, even when insurance is picking up a large chunk of it. Everyone is ready to cast Bruce and Duda aside, even though they were far out- producing their salaries. Yet few balk at Cespedes’ deal.

There’s still plenty of time for things to turn around and for the deal to be a good one. At this point in the first year of Curtis Granderson’s deal, it looked like a big bust but then he ended up with a very strong 2015. But Cespedes’ deal is about twice the size of Granderson’s. Cespedes is going to need to put in a year equivalent to his career-year in 2015, where he was productive at the plate, on the bases and with the glove, and two years noticeably better than this one in order to earn his contract.

Otherwise the Mets would be better off giving him away and re-signing Bruce.

15 comments for “The relative values of Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes

  1. Steevy
    August 13, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Can’t disagree,Cespedes has been a huge disappointment this season.

    • Royce
      August 13, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      Cespedes has gone downhill ever since reyes arrived

  2. Chris F
    August 13, 2017 at 11:35 am

    He has a full no trade clause.

    There is no mistaking that the Mets do not get to the WS in 15 without Ces.

    Hes had a crap season, and looks like hell. But it was right to sign him given what he was doing for the team. Letting Duda and Bruce walk relate to where they are in their contracts so there is no way to easily compare them with Ces. Thats a false equivalency. Letting pending FAs go for prospects is smart if you are not in the post season picture. The Mets can acquire both as FAs in the off season should they desire. They would have had to anyway. Both would have been stupid to sign some club friendly deal when they face their big shot at free agency.

    Just ask Scott Boras.

    • Name
      August 13, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      “He has a full no trade clause.”

      Really interesting question. Does letting someone go on a waiver claim count as a trade and subject to player’s approval? Inquiring minds would like to know.

      • August 13, 2017 at 3:44 pm

        Jerry Crasnick tweeted: “You can say no to the claim if you’re a 10-5 guy or have a full no trade clause.”

        • August 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm

          And in a response to that tweet, former MLB pitcher Jim Kaat tweeted: “Yes! Ironically, I was the first player to have that option in 1973. White Sox claimed me. Roland Hemond offered me a 10k raise I said yes!!”

          Same link as above.

  3. Royce
    August 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Here are the facts about reyes the virus
    1) after the Rockies aquired reyes in 2015 they got 20 games worse that same year.
    2) the blue jays were under 500 with reyes in 2015 then they got rid of him and got 25 games better that same year.
    3) 2007 and 2008 biggest collapses in history
    4)2012 Marlins one of the biggest underachieving teams in MLB history 25 games under 500 with reyes
    5)2017 mets underachieving disaster
    6)since reyes the virus arrived cespedes has gone downhill
    Jose reyes is the rare person who is a virus that destroys every team he is on menatlly ill bleaching his hair laughing non stop including when the team is losing. His unhealthy personality messes up everyone’s timing and makes guys lose urgency without them realizing it. Worst move in mets history bringing back that virus.

    • Chris F
      August 13, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      Im not sure Im that far around the bend, but I will say, I do not like the Reyes, Cabrera, Cespedes trinity, especially as it pertains to developing Rosario and other young players.

      Cespedes withdraw this year has been spectacularly negative.

    • Paul Schwartz
      August 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Stop already with the virus stuff.
      If the Met pitchers like Harvey, Syndergaard, Wheeler and Familia were healthy and performing up to their 2015 (and in wheeler’s case 2014) performances, we all know the Mets would be in contention for at least a wild card.
      How does Reyes affect their pitching?
      P.S. The last six weeks of last season with Reyes, Cabrera and Cespedes healthy and playing nearly every day the Mets were 28-16 and before that they were a .500 team for 4 1/2 months without him.

      Is he the Reyes of 2004-2011? No
      In retrospect he probably would trade a few million dollars of the big contract he signed with the Marlins to have stayed here where he is clearly more comfortable than elsewhere. That was his mistake.
      And how was he responsible for the 2007 and 2008 collapses? What was his ERA in September each year?

      Methinks Mr. Royce may have a different agenda here.

  4. Name
    August 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    General Comment:
    I’ve found the waiver wire to be a complex animal, and one that involves a lot of game theory.

    Take Bruce for example. He was traded with no salary offset, but then why did no one claim him originally and he cleared waivers? Evidently, the Indians GM thought that Alderson would be more likely to deal him when he had other options than to put a claim on him and force Alderson to only talk to him.
    Or maybe he was willing to take on the full salary, but wanted to try to negotiate a salary offset, and putting in a waiver claim would give away some bargaining power.

  5. TexasGusCC
    August 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    As for Cespedes, he came into the year out of shape and paid for it. Hopefully his flexibility training this off season can make him the player we all know he can be. Further, I don’t trust players that find the magic formula their contract year after years of substandard production.
    I read the virus stuff concerning Cabrera and Reyes with disappointment and concern. Not only has it been suggested that a selfish approach those two supposedly showed is the reason Rosario took so long to be promoted, but I also read that Cabrera’s comments in mid-July have made every team run the other way.

    I don’t think that what Cabrera said was so unusual. You hear those kinds of comments occasionally with older players being bumped, but having them leak to the press was done deliberately to maim Cabrera and keep him in check.

    As for Reyes, his only crime is that he isn’t 25 anymore. He had a terrible first half but has been better. I can see the value of keeping one but not both. As for Reyes being a virus, this would be the first time this type of news has been said concerning him.

    Why are we blaming these two players for voicing their displeasure in what we all hear is “a business”? After having the inmates run the asylum all year, you want to shut them up now?

  6. Steevy
    August 13, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    I guess the 2016 Mets were immune to the Reyes virus…:)

  7. Eraff
    August 13, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    The Mets have a history of smearing their players…and that crap can only come from the Owners.

  8. Jimmy P
    August 14, 2017 at 6:56 am

    I think the calls of “virus” are a slight improvement over calling players a “cancer.”

    It’s a little hysterical and over-the-top.

    But clearly Reyes has an influence over Rosario.

    The question I can’t possibly answer from my easy chair is whether that’s a positive, neutral, or negative influence. But it’s something the club should take pains to get right.

    • TexasGusCC
      August 14, 2017 at 9:22 am

      When I see Reyes and Rosario do their little dance routines in the dugout, I wonder: Shouldn’t a veteran act like a veteran? They spend more time choreographing those for television’s sake than practicing their bunting or doing some baseball drill, and it is also a distraction from game preparation. Now Reyes may not see it like that or mean that to happen, but if I was his manager, we would have already had a discussion about that.

      Not that he’s a “virus” because of this, as I gave my position earlier, but I think that even the most seasoned employee will stray from his discipline if the supervisor doesn’t check how much rope he can have. Not sure the analogy of the rope is the best, but the best I can come up with.

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