July 2015 saw the New York Mets acquire outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers and it appeared to be a marriage made in heaven. In 57 games with the Mets in 2015, Cespedes batted .287 with 17 home runs and 44 runs batted in to help New York win the National League Pennant for the first time since 2000. Following the season Cespedes would become a free agent, but he would remain with the Mets after the two sides agreed on a three-year deal for $75 million. Cespedes appeared in 132 games for the Mets in 2016 as he batted .280 with 31 home runs and 86 runs batted in to help New York reach the postseason in consecutive years for only the second time franchise history.
Upon initially re-signing with the Mets, Cespedes had a clause in his contract which allowed him to opt out after one year. Cespedes exercised this clause to become a free agent last winter. Cespedes would once again agree to remain with the Mets as both sides agreed to a four-year deal for $110 million, while he was also given a full no-trade clause.
This season Cespedes has been limited to just 46 games as knee and quad injuries have slowed him down. Cespedes is batting .272 with 9 homers and 20 runs batted in as the guy who was supposed to be the Mets cleanup hitter has been reduced to being one of Major League Baseball’s most expensive cheerleaders. And as the Mets who are 41-50 are set to unofficially throw in the towel on a season to forget for them, Cespedes has become the poster boy of their problems.
Cespedes made his Major League Baseball debut in 2012, but the Mets are the fourth different team that he has played for. There have not been any stories in regards to Cespedes being a bad locker room guy with any team that he has played for, but the 365 games that he played for the Oakland Athletics marks the longest stretch that he has had with any team.
Cespedes has the talent to be one of the best players in baseball, but he plays when he wants to. In 2012, Cespedes finished second in the American League’s Rookie of the Year voting as he batted .292 with 23 home runs and 82 runs batted in for the A’s. Cespedes also racked up 18 outfield assists as he simply dared runners to advance on his strong right arm. But inconsistency was the name of the game for the remainder of Cespedes’ time in Oakland which led him to being traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2014.
Cespedes appeared as if he was going to be a centerpiece in the Red Sox rebuilding until he was traded to the Tigers. In 102 games with the Tigers, Cespedes batted .293 with 18 home runs and 61 runs batted in. However when the Tigers fell out of contention, they wanted to make sure that they received something for Cespedes as he was set to become a free agent.
Upon arriving to Queens, Cespedes was greeted with a hero’s welcome as he appeared to be the final piece that would make the Mets a contender. Cespedes held up his end of the bargain by helping to give a dormant offense life as the Mets went from possessing one of the worst offenses in the National League to having one of the best. Cespedes exemplified this by putting the Mets offense on his back as he was the difference in them overtaking the Washington Nationals to win the National League East. And in Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cespedes provided a 440-foot three-run homer that put the game out of reach.
However that would be the last highlight for Cespedes in the playoffs as he only batted .250 in the National League Championship Series win over the Chicago Cubs, and just a paltry .200 in the World Series as the Mets lost in five games to the Kansas City Royals. The Mets would make the playoffs last season as a wild card, but in the single-elimination game, Cespedes would go 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts as the Mets were eliminated at home by the San Francisco Giants.
Cespedes is the prototypical power-hitter in the aspect that he can hit home runs in bunches, and when he’s hot, a team can simply get on his back. However Cespedes also falls into the category of players whose numbers tank when they sign a big contract in free agency which is evident by his 2017 campaign.
Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon were under a ton of pressure to re-sign Cespedes after the 2015 season from a fan base that wanted to see the team keep the momentum going after their trip to the World Series. The Wilpons obliged and they did it once more last winter, but now it appears that the Mets are stuck with a player who only shows up when it is convenient for him.
You can expect Mets general manager Sandy Alderson to begin wheeling and dealing soon in order to send veteran players to contending teams, while dumping salary and getting prospects in return. All of the Mets struggles do not fall at the feet of Cespedes as this team has been hit hard by the injury bug as the likes of starting pitchers Matt Harvey and Noah Synderggard, along with relief pitcher Jeurys Familia are currently on the disabled list. But with Cespedes being the Mets highest paid player this season at $22.5 million, he is going to receive the brunt of the criticism. And in the process this is just another example of “buyer beware” in Major League Baseball free agency.