Posted in Baseball

Where will Yo go?

Yoenis Cespedes waits in the on-deck circle (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Yoenis Cespedes waits in the on-deck circle during the final regular season game of the Mets’ 2015 season (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is still a free agent, though it seems he might not be one for much longer.

When Chris Davis re-signed with the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, it seemed to close the door on the possibility that Cespedes would land a long-term contract this winter.

(The Orioles had been the only team willing to offer Cespedes a five-year deal, albeit for less money than he sought, and it looks to me like it was a negotiating ploy with Davis rather than genuine interest.)

Some Mets fans hoped that these developments meant Cespedes would stay in New York, forced to accept whatever short-term contract the Mets deigned to offer. And that certainly could still happen… but it won’t be because the Mets are the only game in town.

The Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves have all express interest on some level. The Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are also possible landing spots.

(10:15 p.m. Jan. 18 update: strike the Detroit Tigers from the list of potential landing spots – they’ve agreed to a deal with Justin Upton that could be worth more than $132 million over six years.)

And that would seem to take the Mets out of the picture.

Without Cespedes, the Mets would have had a much harder time pushing past the Washington Nationals last summer… but they may have managed to do it. Cespedes was a huge key to the Mets’ offensive revitalization, both for his own hitting and his ability to take pressure off of the rest of the lineup. But the Mets also benefitted from Sandy Alderson‘s other trade deadline moves, from the return of David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud from the disabled list, and from the promotion of Michael Conforto.

Cespedes virtually disappeared during the World Series, earning the ire of many Mets fans (me included, to a degree.) But he was playing hurt by that point. Having his bat in the lineup would be a positive addition for almost any major league team.

Still, his misplay of Alcides Escobar‘s first inning fly ball into an inside the park home run in the first game of the World Series is indicative of Cespedes’ defensive weaknesses. And it’s always going to bug me when he decides he doesn’t have to run out ground balls.

The 2016 Mets as they presently stand are a better squad than the 2015 Mets were at the start of the season. I worry that they haven’t done enough to improve their offense (and bullpen), but they’re probably good enough to stay in the hunt with Washington until the trade deadline. If they do, maybe Alderson will be able to work some magic again.

The defending National League champions shouldn’t be aiming for “good enough,” but in a post-Madoff world, that’s where we are. So let’s hope Cespedes doesn’t land in the NL East (unless he does end up with the Mets again somehow) and wish him the best.