Posted in Baseball

Waiting for Yo (and snow)

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 Mets game of 2015. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

All week, I’ve been hearing predictions about our first real snowstorm of the winter, which could bring blizzard conditions to New Jersey tomorrow.

All week, I’ve been reading about where Yoenis Cespedes will play baseball this season, which city he prefers and whether he’s a good teammate.

While Cespedes is mulling competing offers from the Washington Nationals and New York Mets that both fall far short of his desire, we’re left in limbo.

By Sunday, at least one of those stories will be resolved. We’ll know how much snow we got and how long it’s going to take to dig out.

With Cespedes? Only one person can say, and we’ve got to wait for him to make up his mind.

There is no question that the 2016 Mets would be a better team with Cespedes than without him. If the Wilpon family wants to convince fans that they care about building on last season’s success, they will find the money to pay Cespedes and step in to overrule Sandy Alderson if necessary to make sure the signing happens.

I would love it if we lived in a world where the Mets worked that way.

But here’s the thing… we’re pretty sure the Mets are going to be operating with a mid-market payroll for the foreseeable future due to the Wilpon family’s bad financial decisions. They’ve already committed approximately $53.75 million to five players for 2017. Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud will hit arbitration for the first time. Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia will be in their second year of arbitration eligibility. Lucas Duda will be going to arbitration for the final time.

Operating under those constraints, it would be irresponsible to consider signing Cespedes to a long-term contract. The Mets just can’t afford another aging veteran for 2017 and beyond.

On the other hand, it would also be criminal to let Cespedes walk away to a division rival when 2016 may be your best chance to win a World Series with your home grown pitching staff before their rising costs force you to start thinking about trading some of them.

So the course the Mets are believed to be taking is pretty close to the one I’d advocate if my opinion mattered: Offer Cespedes a three-year deal with an opt-out after year one, for however much 2016 money they can really afford. Sweeten the pot with a promise not to attach a qualifying offer to him if he exercises the opt-out, and give him another opt-out after year two (just in case.) Hope he’s willing to gamble that the free agent market will work out better next time.

Because whether we like it or not, the Mets’ window of contention with this team is not going to be a very long one. If you’re running the show, you’ve got to do the best you can to make the most of it while doing the least damage to your future flexibility when it’s time to restart the rebuilding process.

In the meantime, we wait… and get our snow shovels ready.