On July 4th 2016, Yoenis Cespedes did what he’s been doing for the Mets for over 130 games at this point. He sparked the offense, had clutch hits, and won the team a baseball game. The Mets had arguably their most impressive victory of the season yesterday. Before the end of the third inning, they were down 6-0 to the Marlins. Matt Harvey gave up 11 hits, 6 runs (5ER) over 3.2 innings. He continued what has been an unimpressive campaign in his second season removed from Tommy John surgery.
But despite being down 6-0, the Mets were able to crawl back and eventually win this ball game. Travis d’Arnaud and Curtis Granderson hit solo homers in the fourth and fifth inning respectively. That made it 6-2 Marlins. In the sixth inning, the Mets got to the Marlins bullpen. Travis d’Arnaud hit an RBI single and Kelly Johnson hit into a run scoring double play to make it 6-4. It was at this point that Yoenis Cespedes took the team on his back and contributed the big hits that were needed. In the 7th inning, Neil Walker walked and Yo hit a huge double to make it second and third with nobody out. That set up a James Loney RBI groundout and a Wilmer Flores sac fly to make it 6-6. Then in the 8th inning, d’Arnaud drew a leadoff walk. Juan Lagares then sacrificed him over to second base in what was a close play at first that was originally called safe, challenged, and ultimately ruled a sac bunt. Then with two outs Neil Walker was walked (again), and Yoenis Cespedes crushed a double to score d’Arnaud and Lagares to make it 8-6. The double was Yo’s third hit of the game. 8-6 was the final score.
Almost every member of the bullpen stepped up and combined to toss 5.1 scoreless innings of relief. The bullpen was huge in the effort to bail out Harvey. But there’s just no way the Mets score enough runs to win that game without Cespedes. We could probably say that sentence for a majority of the team’s wins in 2016. I have always been firmly in the “pay Cespedes whatever he wants” camp. But I think considering the MVP level 2016 campaign he is putting together, we’ve reached that point in the season where it’s time to be more vocal about the need to lock him up.
Cespedes is the only true undisputed impact bat (franchise bat? elite bat? choose whichever cliché you want) in this Mets lineup. Without him this team doesn’t make the playoffs last year and is barely a Wild Card contender at this point in the season. I still have no idea why he didn’t receive any market value offers this past offseason. I have no idea why the Nationals didn’t up their offer so it had a higher Net Present Value than the Mets 3 year deal. Part of me thinks Cespedes dealt with a little bit of the Daniel Murphy effect. I’m not trying to compare the actual career production of these two players at all. But I am saying that teams may have been hesitant to pay Murph and Cespedes because of enormous spikes in production relative to their career numbers over the last year or so.
Murph’s 14 regular season home runs last year combined with his 7 postseason home runs certainly represented a spike in power production when you consider his previous season high was 13 (in 2013). When you look at that and then you consider his 14 home runs in 2016 along with his .347/.387/.579 batting line through 81 games, the production starts to become a little more than a product of small sample size. Yoenis Cespedes has had a similar spike in 2015-16. He’s been hitting between .290-.300 for a season and a half at this point and posting an OPS close to .900. He’s on pace for 40 home runs. This is a guy who hit .240 in 2013 and .260 in 2014 and never hit more than 26 long balls before his 35 home run campaign last year. Daniel Murphy is 31 years old and Cespedes is 30. I can understand that teams might be skeptical that these two players will sustain these late career production spikes in the short term and over the course of a long term deal.
I also think regardless of whether you feel it should, the poor 2016 performance by Matt Harvey may impact the Mets decision to sign Cespedes. It seemed unlikely before the season that Matt Harvey was going to sign a contract extension with the Mets because he’s a Scott Boras client, and also because he was under team control for another 3 years. Well based on his performance so far this year, it seems almost impossible that he will sign any type of extension in the near future. He’s certainly not going to lock up a deal with his value at an all time low, and I don’t think the Mets are going to be inclined to pay him right now either.
Assuming the Mets financial resources are somewhat limited (which seems to consistently be the case) the team might be more inclined than ever to use their additional revenue to extend Cespedes rather than plan to save funds for a future Harvey deal. Again, the two deals should not be linked because the Mets should spend whatever is necessary to field a winning product. I think in the long run, a winning product should include Cespedes and Harvey. But we must be realistic and acknowledge that any long term contracts they give out will undoubtedly diminish the chances that they give out more of them. If the Mets are actually debating whether to devote future resources to Cespedes or Harvey, 2016 may fully tip the scales in Yo’s direction.
The bottom line is Yo is going to opt out of his contract at season’s end, and I think it’s safe to assume a lot of teams are going to bet on his 2015-16 level of production continuing. I think the majority of teams are going to want to add his franchise bat to their lineup. He’s only enhanced his value this season by showing that he can at least hold his own as a center fielder. The Wilpons need to grab their checkbook, call Roc Nation, and add whatever number of years and dollars he wants to his current deal so they remove the opt out and ensure the Mets keep him in the lineup for the next 6 years or so. I don’t care about the bad back end of the deal. I don’t care that he may throw his back out at the driving range. We need to make this happen ASAP and avoid an offseason bidding war. The guy is a warrior and a star. He’s the heart of the offense, and I want to be able to see him launching upper deck moon shots at Citi Field for years to come.