Contrary to popular belief, Yoenis Cespedes has not dropped off the face of the Earth. Apparently, he’s been rehabbing and is about to start playing games in the minors. Under normal circumstances, this would be good news, a heartwarming tale of the Mets’ best hitter getting primed to lead them back to – this should be tempered, considering the god-awful baseball this team has given us this year – respectability. That might be too strong; maybe they should shoot for mediocrity first, then take it from there. But these are not normal circumstances. 2018 is shaping to be one of the more gruesome seasons in Mets history – and that’s saying a lot, considering Mets history. The Cespedes situation is no different. Yes, he’ll be playing rehab games, but the word is he’ll be playing first base.
Now, I understand the couple of pros about it: it keeps his bat in the lineup while leaving Brandon Nimmo in the “regular” outfield configuration and it will likely save wear and tear on his fragile quads and hips. Besides, with the Mets so far down in the MLB dungeon, now would be a safe time to experiment with something like this. The problem is, this sort of thing never seems to go well. If you’re over a certain age, you’ll no doubt recall the switch of Mike Piazza from catcher to first. That whole transition was handled spectacularly badly, but we’re not sure by whom – was it ownership? GM Steve Phillips? Or manager Art Howe? Any one of these parts was capable of screwing it up. For his part, Piazza was eager to give it a go, but he wasn’t exactly Keith Hernandez or Mark Teixeira out there and the bungling of it was another in a long string of #LOLMets. One would also have to wonder what kind of message this sends. Most of the time, a player will shift to first at the end of his career. You can picture them in your mind’s eye: Hall-of-Famers like Piazza, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson. First base has always been a safe haven in the National League and in the days of no DH. But that’s at the end of a career. Cespedes has been in the majors for seven years and he’ll turn 33 in October. Are the Mets telling us he’s looking at the end of the line? Do they consider him an “old” 33? Are his wheels so flat that he’s got to park at first? And if the answer to all that is “yes,” they’re paying him an awful lot of money on the way to the ol’ folks’ home: $60 million over the next two years. Heck, we don’t even know if Cespedes can play the position. The experiment will; be short lived if he stumbles around like Marv Throneberry out there. And what happens when/if Jay Bruce, another converted outfielder, comes back? And what does this say about what management — such as it is — thinks about the career arc of Dominic Smith? There are so many moving parts to this thing, it hardly seems worth the effort.
Odds are, it won’t be the smoothest transition we’ve ever seen – it’s the Mets, after all. It’s the motto of the Mets fan, chiseled onto every tombstone:
“Expect the worst and hope for the best.”
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.