Browsing Archive December, 2015

Cespedes: Not Worth It? Are There Alternatives?

Michael Cuddyer‘s sudden retirement was certainly an unexpected development. While it remains to be seen exactly how much money the Mets will be paying him to not play in 2016, it did nevertheless begin rampant speculation among Mets fans (including some in my own household) that the door for re-signing Yoenis Cespedes has suddenly swung open.  The silence from the Mets front office since Cuddyer’s announcement have conjured up memories of off-seasons past, where the Mets sat on the sidelines, signing a reclamation project or two off of the scrap heap while their major league brethren in markets a fraction of the size of theirs walked off with the shiny prizes.

We here at Mets Today were certainly unsparing in our criticism of the Wilpons and Sandy Alderson during this nearly half-decade stretch and while  we admit to a twinge or two of here-we-go-again-itis, we do feel it is very important to take a step back and try to see the bigger picture.

Even using baseball money, which has reached ridiculous proportions, is Cespedes–as great as he was for August and the first half of September, worth a 5 or 6 year, nine-figure deal?  One  of the more interesting developments in baseball this past decade or so has been the arrival of advanced stats and their insertion into discussions such as this one.  One of my favorite “new” metrics is WAR or Wins Above Replacement, a stat I freely admit to not fully understanding, but do trust enough to rely on–oh boy, I just sounded like a political partisan!

Lets start with offensive WAR: in 2015 Cespedes ranked 66th in majors in that category with 2.85 Offensive WAR, this puts him somewhere between solid and good. We will use some Capwell logic/math and combine several articles on the topic and round up the cost per win in WAR @ $7M (told you this was stupid money). So, using WAR only, Cespedes is worth $21M per year. The Mets leader in O-WAR last year was Curtis Granderson with a 3.9 O-WAR, good for 34th in the majors in that category. So at “only” $15M last year, the Mets actually got a bargain in Curtis.

What WAR doesn’t show is just how hot Cespedes got during a key stretch of the season and that he did it in baseball’s biggest market. He hit nearly as many homeruns (17) in just over half the amount of games (57) for the Mets last year as he did for the Tigers (18 and 102 respectively).   I think it is those homers, coupled with a couple of great throws, that most Met fans associate Cespedes with. Here’s an interesting  stat: he didn’t hit a regular season home run after September 14. Was he hurt, or did he just run out of gas?

Emotions aside, is this $21M per year really a prudent use of resources? In the words of Casey Stengel, growing old isn’t so bad, once you consider the alternative. From a team’s perspective however, growing old is pretty bad, especially when you are paying someone for something they did when they where younger. Call this an over-simplification if you must, but most baseball players see a decline in their performance as they age. Did this decline already begin with Cespedes? And, even if he works hard to re-invent himself the way Granderson did, is the money he wants per year (probably until 2022) worth it? I’d have a hard time reconciling myself to that deal, if the Mets make it.

Bottom line: at three years plus an option at $21M per Cespedes might be worth the risk. Unfortunately, some stupid team will bite on his much larger demands. It might take a while, but we eventually will all be glad it wasn’t the Mets.

So, where should the Mets turn next?

Denard Span‘s name has been floated frequently. I like the idea, at least on the surface. But I think that Span, if proven healthy next month, will probably command a contract that the Mets are unwilling to give. Remember, this is the guy who lead the NL in hits just two years ago. Returning to the relative realm of baseball salaries again, Span has been underpaid for his entire career and going on age 32, he probably sees this as his last chance to cash in. I highly doubt he will take less money to come here and platoon with Juan Lagares. If he does come here, then it probably means his hip isn’t fully healed. That presents a whole other set of problems for the Mets.

Here’s a name: Alejandro de Aza. Don’t laugh. He has slashed 274/338/418 vs. right-handed pitchers for his career. Platoon him with Lagares (279/325/427 vs. lefties) and the Mets are solid in center. Not the automatic outs that killed the Mets for the first half of 2015, they can be batted lower in the order and can be switched out late in games as the Mets get into the opponent’s bullpen. He is slightly younger than Span and would, I suspect, take a short-term deal to extend his career.

If money where no object, I would tout the Mets signing Cespedes and giving contracts to Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Jeurys Familia. But since money is an object, they can’t carry all four and give raises to other key components. One or two mainstays of the 2015 will likely need to be sacrificed to the God of Sustained Success. Cespedes is the first to go.

Unfortunately, he won’t be the last.





Winter Meetings Tidbits: Sandy, Zobrist and When Prospects Miss

Before anything else, a tip of the Mets Today cap to Sandy Alderson. Having watched several acquaintances and one very important friend bravely fight and finally succumb to this horrible disease, I can only wish the best for him and his loved ones as he traverses this uncertain path.

On to baseball:

I think my streak of accurate prognostications is about to be shattered as the Mets appear poised to sign Ben Zobrist. I am actually very excited about this possibility as Zobrist fits the Mets on several levels.

For openers, he will improve their middle infield defense. While his stated preference is to play second base, his versatility, including his ability to switch hit, lengthens the Mets lineup and serves as an important insurance policy against injuries (David Wright) and/or inconsistent play from untested youngsters (Dilson Herrera and Michael Conforto). His Marcel Projection of 268/345/413 is acceptable for what is a “win now” move.

His signing would signal that the Mets clearly understand that their window of contention is wide open and that they are willing to invest what is needed to capitalize on this opportunity.  But, this isn’t all just about next year. Because he was traded during the season last July, his signing won’t cost The Mets a draft pick. On the other hand, the Mets stand a very good chance of gaining an extra draft pick for losing Daniel Murphy to free agency, thanks the Qualifying Offer they made him last month.

Yes, extra first round picks doesn’t always equate to major league success–Google the 2008 Mets draft if you dare. Those failiures, along with the loss of 1st round picks in 2006 and 2009, certainly helped speed the end of the Omar Minaya era. If nothing else, keeping their top pick, while adding both a top-notch major leaguer and a compensatory draft pick is a neat little trick. I will miss Murph, but a trade of Murphy for  Zobrist and what should be a valued prospect is one I think most of us would make.  The Mets should be poised to add at least one more high-profile arm to their depleted conveyor belt of roster candidates/trade bait, a tactic consistent with Alderson’s proclaimed goal of sustained success.

Speaking of young arms…two former top prospects Jacob Turner and Drew Pomeranz were on the move again this week. At one time, both where considered top among the top 50 prospects in all of baseball. The latter began his pro career in the Cleveland system after being drafted 5th overall. He has since been traded three times, the first as part of a deal for a rental ace (Ubaldo Jimenez), but most recently in a rummage sale-type swap between two underachieving teams. At age 27, with a 14-24 W/L record, it’s now or never for him. Turner is an even stranger case: he was also a high level prospect in a deadline deal.  Unfortunately for him, it was to Miami, where careers seemingly go to die. He was traded to the Cubs and later selected off waivers by the White Sox, who immediately cut him and then turned around and resigned him. At 24, he probably has more time left than Pomeranz, but his vagabond ways are certainly a contrast to projections as a Top Of the Rotation arm just a few years ago.

Their sagas are a sobering reminder of how frequently can’t miss prospects do miss and just how fortunate the Mets are to have “hit” on Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard all at the same time. That doesn’t even count what they might very well get from Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler,. Here’s stunning thought: barring a record setting raise in arbitration for Harvey, next year the Detroit Tigers probably will pay more for one season from  Mike Pelfrey than the Mets will for all five of those young starters!

While many of us, including me, did lose faith in Alderson during the past 12-18 months, they are in this position in part due to his ability to leverage the hand he was dealt and his ability to stay the course. Oorah, Marine! Let’s Go Mets!