So how did the Mets go from wanting no part of Yoenis Cespedes on a long-term deal a year ago to pushing aggressively to lock him up through 2020? Simply put, they were smart enough to recognize their window to win a championship is now, and they didn’t stand a chance without the Cuban slugger.
They still have concerns, to be sure, about whether the four-year, $110 million deal is going to make their high-maintenance superstar less than motivated to give his best effort over the course of 162 games.
But I believe GM Sandy Alderson is also more convinced there is something vital about having a player on a team with World Series expectations who has proven he thrives under the bright lights of New York.
As late as the Aug. 1 trade deadline the Mets thought Jay Bruce could essentially replace Cespedes, if it came to that, and then they found out otherwise, as the lefty outfielder looked overwhelmed coming over from Cincinnati.
So basically the Mets are willing to accept the headache that Cespedes has been on occasion, knowing the contract could make him more of a migraine at times, as the price they have to pay to win a championship.
As one Mets’ person put it a couple of weeks ago, discussing Alderson’s change in stance regarding Cespedes from last winter:
“Sometimes you just have to recognize that certain guys, in the right circumstances, are worth the aggravation.’’
The circumstances matter here. The Mets believe that with their young pitching likely to be healthy again, they’re primed for a run at a title, and people who know Alderson well say he burns to win one.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson is showing a willingness to cash in on the Mets’ window to win.
(Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
“One thing you should never underestimate is how competitive Sandy is,’’ one person close to Alderson said after the news of the Cespedes deal broke. “He’s conservative in a lot of ways but he’s willing to gamble on this guy because he wants to seize the moment.”
In doing so, Alderson, as well as the Wilpons, deserve kudos for operating like a big-market team again, which is what everyone has been screaming for since the Mets’ payroll fell to the Tampa Bay/Oakland range a few years ago.
Yes, this was a New York move, to be sure, as Alderson followed his gameplan by pushing aggressively and getting the early decision he wanted, giving him plenty of time now to consider his options in trading Bruce.
And that looms as a significant tandem move here. If Alderson is all-in on trying to win a title right now, he has to know that he needs a stronger bullpen, all the more so because a domestic-violence suspension looms for Jeurys Familia.
In Bruce he has a trade chip, but it can’t be simply to unload the $13 million the right fielder is owed for 2017, the final year of his contract. Despite his rough adjustment to New York, Bruce still hit 33 home runs last season, and has value for teams in need of power.
The Blue Jays had interest in him at the trade deadline last season, and could be very much in need of power if Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista leave as free agents. The problem is their bullpen is thin, especially after Brett Cecil just signed with the Cardinals as a free agent, but 26-year old righthander Joe Biagini showed potential in his first season in the big leagues as a middle reliever.
The Padres may be rebuilding but they might want Bruce’s home-run power on a one-year deal, and they have some solid relievers, including lefty Brad Hand, a pitcher the Mets have shown interest in previously.
The Mets initially thought Jay Bruce could replace Yoenis Cespedes if need be.
(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Alderson has time to scour the market, but if the Mets really wanted to act like a big-market team again, they could get in on the bidding for Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon.
That’s not happening, of course. Things haven’t changed that much at Citi Field, and who knows if they’ll ever go back to being one of the top-payroll teams in baseball, as they were a decade ago. Or pre-Madoff.
In truth, signing Cespedes might even cause them to cut corners here and there, when it comes to re-signing lefty specialist Jerry Blevins, for example.
So this isn’t necessarily the start of a new era or anything. But at least it shows a willingness to cash in on their window to win.
In addition to paying Cespedes $27.5 million per year, the second-highest annual salary ever in the majors for a position player, behind only Miguel Cabrera, the Mets committed $17.2 million to Neil Walker on a one-year qualifying offer that the second baseman took because his market was compromised by late-season back surgery.
And when you consider that Alderson made bold moves at the trade deadline each of the last two seasons, you could almost see this coming. He’s surely got reservations about committing all that money to Cespedes, but as Cubs’ president Theo Epstein said after trading for Aroldis Chapman in July:
“If not now, then when?”
Somewhere on Tuesday, Alderson may have had the same thought.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News