On the readers’ choice for a healthy Yoenis Cespedes

A few days ago, the site featured a poll asking readers, in a dream scenario, to pick one thing to happen for the 2020 Mets. The choices were to trade for Mookie Betts, get a full season from Yoenis Cespedes, sign Gerrit Cole, sign Anthony Rendon, or other. Here are the current results of the poll:

41% – Cespedes
22% – Rendon
16% – Cole
14% – Betts
6% — Other

The results are shocking to me. It would have taken me four guesses to arrive at the actual leader in this poll. My vote went to Cole based on the fact that the Mets are going from Zack Wheeler to a giant question mark in the rotation and the upgrade from question mark to Cole is greater than the upgrade any of the other choices offered.

Perhaps the upgrade from the flotsam and jetsam that the Mets used for three months in center field last year would make trading for Betts worthwhile, especially if he was able to rebound towards his 2018 numbers. But it seems the cost for acquiring Betts would have to be factored into the equation and it’s hard to imagine any scenario where Boston trades him for spare parts. Still, anyone who picked this option made a solid choice.

My expectation was that Rendon would win this poll. He’s an excellent player, one who’s put up three consecutive eye-popping years. His 2019 season was his best one yet, as he posted a career-high 7.0 fWAR and followed that up with a great postseason, being an integral part of the Nationals’ World Series win. My opinion is that he won’t be worth the contract that he gets this offseason. Yet no one should be unhappy with adding a guy who put up 19.9 fWAR over the past three years.

Which brings us to Cespedes.

Usually my complaint is when the team picks up a veteran who hasn’t done much lately but was good on another team three years ago. But choosing this route is picking the veteran who was last good on the Mets three years ago. Odds are stacked against Betts, Cole or Rendon being in a Mets uniform in 2020. And maybe that’s what the voters were thinking, despite the fact that it was explicitly stated as a dream scenario. Either that or the memories of his first two months in 2015 carried a huge weight.

If we took those two months in 2015 and had him producing like that for all six months of the year, Cespedes would have a 7.8 fWAR, which would make him a legitimate choice in this poll. But the fact is that Cespedes has never produced at that level over a full season. His high was his actual 2015, when he put up a 5.8 fWAR split between the Tigers and Mets. After that, his best mark was the 4.0 fWAR he notched in his 2012 rookie season. Those are good numbers; they just don’t compare to what Betts, Cole and Rendon have done in their careers.

Plus we now have Cespedes trying to get back into form at age 34, after missing all of last season and most of 2018, too. Surgery on both heels and surgery to repair multiple fractures in his right ankle are what’s kept him out most of the past two seasons. Prior to that, Cespedes had other leg injuries, which led fans to believe that his hamstrings were the weak part of his body. It’s possible the heels were causing the hamstring issues. Or it’s possible that we have three different body areas about which to be concerned.

But let’s say that the voters in the poll get their wish and that Cespedes comes back and plays in 140 or so games in 2020. What would the Mets get from him? Right now there’s only one projection system forecast available at FanGraphs. The Steamer forecast is for 54 games and 237 PA. It gives him an .813 OPS and a 0.7 fWAR.

A healthy Cespedes likely knocks J.D. Davis from a starting role on the team, at least with the current makeup of the club. Steamer forecasts a .789 OPS and a 1.1 fWAR from Davis in 117 games and 478 PA. At these rates, over 140 games, Cespedes would be a slight improvement over Davis, but nothing about which to get excited.

Of course, Davis would become a productive bench member and that would add something to the equation, too. It might give the team the best bench in the majors. But the team would have the same bench configuration if the big add was Betts or Rendon. And Steamer projects those two for a 6.6 and a 5.5 fWAR in 2020, respectively.

Still, we’re going with Cespedes. Let’s look at a potential lineup for the club with a healthy Cespedes:

Brandon Nimmo
Pete Alonso
Jeff McNeil
Cespedes
Michael Conforto
Wilson Ramos
Robinson Cano
Amed Rosario

It’s fun to think about the offensive potential of that lineup. Just don’t spend too long considering the defensive implications. Defense is another reason why Betts or Rendon would have been a better pick. Cespedes won a Gold Glove Award back in 2015 and was a decent choice, too. But it’s hard to imagine that he’s going to be a positive in the field at his age and with his assorted injuries.

Despite all of that, it will be fun to see Cespedes back in action, assuming that the video we saw of him taking batting practice means he’s on pace to play at least some games here in 2020. He’s been productive while with the Mets, amassing an 8.8 fWAR in 308 games. Here’s hoping we see him in games this season.

11 comments for “On the readers’ choice for a healthy Yoenis Cespedes

  1. Dennis M Spellman
    November 30, 2019 at 11:09 am

    I think the reason is simpler than that, at his best Cespedes is a better player than any of the other position players & if your are dreaming you would assume he comes back at his best.
    Mookie Betts has had one superior year & the rest of his career has been above average but not elite, plus I have never seen him play centerfield & Nimmo if he gets more time might be a real good center fielder.
    We don’t need Cole as we already have an excellent starting four & # 5 could be cobbled together with a combination of a lesser free agent & some of the guys on the farm.
    Finally Rendon, he is a great third baseman & in my opinion would be the only one of the three that I would take over a healthy Cespedes. He has the defensive tools & his offense is better than any third baseman in the National league. But he as far being in the same class offensively as Cespedes he has never before last year hit more than 25 home runs so Cespedes has much more power when he has been healthy.
    So I am with the majority on this one, a healthy Cespedes is better than any of the options especially if you add in the extra money it would take to have any one of them on the roster.

    • November 30, 2019 at 11:17 am

      You’re kidding yourself if you think that Cespedes has been better than the others.

    • Eraff
      November 30, 2019 at 11:08 pm

      4 Gold Gloves… an mvp and a runner up mvp… lifetime 900 ish ops… Betts certainly is “Above Average”

  2. TJ
    November 30, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Brian,
    Like you, the results surprise me somewhat as my guess would have been Rendon. Also like you, I am leery of the cost of Rendon over the span of the deal, given the Met spending habits. Cespedes is quite intriguing, given his absence and personality, but he is by far the biggest risk for 2020. There is a reasin why Endy Chavez’s BP video was taken down shortly after it was put up. It is also quite interesting that the Yankees are contesting the final year of the Elisbury contract. Cespedes’ $30 million salary looms large over the winter plans. This is a repeat of the David Wright situation. How do they plan financially? The initial body language from Brodie is concerning…and shucksterish…we may use Lugo or Gsellman as a starter…we expect Diaz and Familia to bounce back and have big roles in the pen…blah blah blah. Yeah, it may be marketplace banter, but it also may be that Jeff won’t spend anything if he thinks that Cespedes will be healthy enough to try to play, voiding insurance payments. And, worst can, if Cespedes returns, and stinks, sure they can cut him, but they’ll be no salary relief. This is another reason why, when Brodie rolled the dice on Cano, he blew in not getting enough money in return to mitigate the risk of Cano’s performance relative to his pay.

  3. TP
    November 30, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    I think the thing is we’re already paying Cespedes and taking on the payroll of the others would likely mean trading away other assets to fit them under our budget.

    I think if you asked “payroll and what it takes to get these players aside” you get a totally different response.

    • November 30, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      Wow, who knew that “dream scenario” needed clarification…

  4. Dennis M Spellman
    November 30, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    “When Healthy” which hasn’t been often, I agree but you said dream scenario!

  5. TexasGusCC
    November 30, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    I also voted for Cespedes and the reasons were simple. Like Dennis, I’m expecting Cespedes to come back in similar fashion to when he left. He’s in his walk year, and at 34 is not so old that he can’t pull out a good year. Yoenis is fit so he doesn’t carry baggage that makes one think he won’t age well. The reason I didn’t vote for my favorite non-Mets player (Rendon, and that was before he became good when he was constantly hurt but I loved the short sweet swing), is we have way too many infielders. Way too many, and I’m tired of throwing them all in the outfield and watching fly balls drop in front of them because they froze or broke back a step, and seeing them break in two steps and then chase the ball to the wall. As for Betts, the cost is the concern and as for Cole, giving another pitcher another $32MM means getting used to trying to win 2-1 games all over again because there won’t be any money to retain offense when you realize JDG, Cole, and Cano is about 33% of the payroll already, and that’s after Cespedes leaves.

  6. Pete from NJ
    November 30, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    Like Gus I voted for our former hero.
    Strangely enough it is more realistic that Yoenis makes us smile while listening to Lion King sounds than payroll expanding with a Cole/Rendon addition.

    Yet looking at the probabilities a rebound is a long shot. Operations on two ankles and then a broken leg? And Of course that’s why the vote went that way-we’re all a bunch a romantic dreamers.

  7. Mike W
    December 1, 2019 at 12:08 am

    I voted for Rendon. Cespedes has been a painful useless investment. Hey, he fell off of his horse. What are the odds at his age that he comes back after missing so much time and will be a force? I think the odds are very low.

    Step up Wilpons. We want to win. Cut our losses with Cespedes. Put him in the rear view mirror. Spend some money and let’s go win a pennant.

    Cespedes is full of rust.

  8. December 1, 2019 at 9:44 am

    I would take that lineup right now, just switch the top 3 to McNeil, Nimmo and Alonso, then Cespedes.
    He could come back and be more than decent at the plate. That’s a lineup nightmare for pitchers…both opposition, and the team’s pitchers – aka- defensive output behind them as well…this lineup likely will be below avg on defense. The hope is that the bats overcome the D. Doesn’t always happen, but with a good staff and a much, much better BP, that lineup can get the team 90+ W’s and a likely WC. In 2021,
    so much $$$ coming off the books, the team will be in a better place. Cespedes, Familia, Ramos, Lowrie, this right here alone is like $60M !!!

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