Mets: What if Yoenis Cespedes never opted out in 2020?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 01: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets bats during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on August 01, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 01: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets bats during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on August 01, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

What would have been different about the New York Mets had slugger Yoenis Cespedes not dramatically opt-out of the 2020 season?

Entering the COVID-19 shortened MLB season, the New York Mets had high expectations. A large part because of their offense’s potential, which included a healthy Yoenis Cespedes for the first time since 2018. That was at least until “La Potencia” literally vanished, then opted out of the season.

What exactly happened?

The damage Cespedes can do when healthy is known around baseball. The two-time All-Star had a historic run in 2015 with the Mets and has been in MVP discussion multiple times in his career. Except since 2017, he has only played 119 games, including a year and a half layoff starting in 2018 due to injuries.

Simply put, he already entered 2020 as a wild card. Who knew what the 34-year old had left in the tank?

Right off the bat, he showed he still had power. In the seventh inning on Opening Day, Cespedes crushed one to left field for his first home run in 735 days. However, that would be the peak of his season. While he hit another a few days later, Cespedes struggled through eight games, posting a .161 batting average in 31 at-bats.

Then came one of the strangest days of Cespedes’ Mets tenure. On August 2nd, he never showed up to Truist Park, as the team could not contact him. It was only hours later that the Mets would learn from his agent that he has opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-concerns. And just like that, Cespedes’ time with the Mets had come to an end.

What would have happened if he did not opt-out?

Cespedes entered the season with a lock on the designated hitter spot in the lineup. Given his age and injury history, it made sense for the Mets to take advantage of the universal DH. Except with the exception of his power, Cespedes was not the player he once was.

The veteran was overpowered at the plate early on in the season and looked lost. With the hefty contract and legacy he had from his 2015/2016 seasons with the team, the Mets would have been hesitant to remove him from the lineup. Ultimately, his presence may have become a burden in the Mets’ lineup.

What happened in reality

In the end, the opt-out of Yoenis Cespedes was a blessing for the Mets. His off-field antics went away, and a star emerged in his absence. Dominic Smith, who was coming off of a career-year in a limited role finally saw everyday at-bats in the designated hitter role. And he thrived.

Smith, who was a bench body when Cespedes played the first eight games, went on to have a breakout season. He hit 10 home runs and 42RBIs to go with a .316 batting average and .993OPS. Had it not been for the hole at designated hitter, he never would have emerged as the middle of the order bat he is now.

Additionally, players like Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis was also impacted. McNeil played 2020 primarily in left field, allowing Davis to return to the hot corner, where he will likely start in 2021. If Cespedes never opted out, he would have taken reps in his natural position of left field by the end of the season.

There is also a good problem that now faces the Mets. With Smith’s emergence and defensive play, the Mets often would switch him and Pete Alonso between first and DH throughout the season. Now, the team could face a problem with both only capable of playing first if there is no universal DH in 2021.

Next. The good and bad of Marcus Stroman's return

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Without a doubt, Mets fans would have loved to have seen a better conclusion to Cespedes’ time with the team this past season. Nevertheless, had he not opted out, the Mets would not be entering 2021 with Dominic Smith viewed as a legitimate franchise cornerstone.