Yoenis Cespedes disappearing in the NLCS and World Series is a huge part of why the New York Mets lost to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.
Cespedes’ measly .458 OPS in the NLCS and World Series was too much for the Mets to overcome. Still, the Mets gave him 3 years and $75 million dollars, including $27.5 million in year 1, after which he can opt-out and test his luck in free agency again.
His most impactful play of the World Series came off his left leg. He kicked the first pitch of the series into left-center field and allowed Alcides Escobar to come all the way around for a leadoff inside-the-park homerun. This series altering play gave the Royals the momentum from the start.
This fopaux brings me to my first point, Yoenis Cespedes is not a good defender, especially not in centerfield. His flashy arm won him the left field Gold Glove in 2015, and I will admit, he is an above average defender in left field.
With Michael Conforto occupying left field and Curtis Granderson in right field, it is possible that Yoenis Cespedes slots in as the Mets centerfielder on most nights. Throughout his 4-year career Cespedes has posted -17 DRS saved in centerfield.
If Cespedes is your everyday centerfielder, he creates a defensive liability at a premium defensive position.
Even if the Mets were to accommodate Cespedes and put him in left field, they would most likely have to rely on Granderson in center field. A position that the 34 year old Granderson has not played with any regularity since 2012, when he posted -10 DRS saved with the New York Yankees.
Cespedes is also not a $25 million per year hitter. His career .319 OBP leaves a lot to be desired, and he is notoriously streaky.
He got so exceptionally hot toward the end of 2015 that he played his way into the NL MVP conversation, despite only playing 57 games with the Mets. He also all but disappeared when the Mets needed him the most in the postseason.
His streakiness can be chalked up, in part, due to a free swinging approach. His 4.9% walk rate in 2015 was the lowest of his career.
Despite the low walk rate, 2015 was by far his best year offensively. He posted a slash line of .291/.328/.542 to go along with 35 HR’s and 105 RBI’s. Perhaps part of this can be attributed to spending the majority of the season in a lineup that included Miguel Cabrera, JD Martinez, and Victor Martinez.
His BABIP in 2015 was .323, well above his 2013 and 2014 levels. This increase came with career high values in his line drive% to 20.4% and hard hit percentage to 35.8%, which are no doubt positive signs.
Cespedes’ 35 HR’s were nine more than his previous career high in 2013. He also generated a HR/FB ratio of 18.6%, also a career high, and almost double the 9.6% he posted in 2014. These numbers coupled with a career low 37.9% FB% in 2015 indicate that he might not be a 30 HR a year type hitter moving forward.
Despite posting a career season at the plate in 2015, it is foolish to ignore his less productive 2012-2014 seasons, especially given his streaky history and free-swinging approach.
Spending a full season surrounded by Lucas Duda, Granderson, and David Wright instead of the Tigers assembly of mashers may affect him. As could a regression in his HR/FB% from 2015 which seemed inflated when looking at the underlying numbers.
That being said, Cespedes was still a good hitter from 2012-2014. He just was not a $25 million dollar a year hitter like he was in 2015.
The Mets had already developed a solid contingency plan for their outfield in 2015. Juan Lagares could have been a Gold Glove caliber defender as the everyday centerfield. Confroto and Granderson were set to anchor the corners. Alejando De Aza was set to be a more than capable 4th outfielder.
Cespedes makes the Mets outfield better overall, but, he also makes it more complicated, worse defensively, and much more expensive. The Mets would have been better off splurging on a bullpen that looks shaky outside of Jeurys Familia, building a stronger, more productive bench, and finding a better every day shortstop than Asdrubal Cabrera.
Instead, they dished out $75 million and complete control to the overrated Cespedes.