We’ll opt-out, too
After 2016, Cespedes used the opt-out clause in his contract. He returned to the Mets on his current deal which paid him $22.5 million in 2017, $29 million in 2018 and 2019, and another $29.5 million owed to him in 2020. Where else could the Mets have spent this money?
Cespedes was the team’s lone star headed to free agency this winter. Bartolo Colon joined him for the second straight offseason. This time, the Mets did not re-sign Big Bart. Their whole offseason seemed focused on bringing Cespedes back. What else was out there?
Still hoping the pitching could carry them, the Mets’ biggest hole would have been replacing Cespedes. Sure, upgrading at catcher was a possibility. Considering all of the injuries they suffered, the Mets could have also made changes elsewhere.
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Looking over the numbers from the season, the Mets actually had some notable outfield depth. Along with Cespedes, they had Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson, and Juan Lagares on the roster playing regularly. Nevertheless, the Mets needed to find some more significant pop.
Speaking of Duda, the Mets could have always moved him back to a corner outfield spot and signed Edwin Encarnacion to play first base. This doesn’t really help them all that much when we remember how often Cespedes played center field for the team.
The Mets needed someone with power and athleticism. Cespedes seemed like the perfect familiar match.
The 2016-2017 free agent class didn’t include too many star players. Former Met Justin Turner wasn’t going to come back to Flushing and the team still had closer Jeurys Familia under contract—so no dice on Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen.
One possibility similar to my Zobrist suggestion after 2015 is Ian Desmond. The ex-shortstop re-established his value with the Texas Rangers in 2016 as an outfielder. He has since spent three underwhelming seasons with the Colorado Rockies where his numbers don’t look like he plays half of his games at Coors Field.
As tough as it is to realize, the team made the best choice they could with bringing back Cespedes. There were no truly realistic replacements for him out there.
It’s possible to argue in favor of signing young players to extensions of loading up on depth. Potentially, they could have not spent all of that money on Cespedes and waited until the following offseason to load up on star players. This would have been closing the window on contention early. It’s not something many fans would accept.
The reason Cespedes didn’t work long-term with the Mets is injury-related. Yeah, the Mets may have known about his bad feet. Who knew he would burn out so quickly and for this long?
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We can ponder “what ifs” until Cespedes comes off the IL, which at the time of his placement, was still called the DL. There’s no perfect strategy for attacking the offseason when it comes to getting the best players possible. In my opinion, the Mets did get the guy they needed. His body just didn’t hold up.