Cespedes For The Rest of Us: Slugger to Re-Sign With Mets

When your manager, captain, and fan base are calling for a player, you do one thing: go after that player at all costs. And that’s just what Sandy Alderson did. Yoenis Cespedes is returning to Queens.

According to multiple reports, the deal is for three years with a player opt-out clause after the first year, worth $75 million in total—the second most per year ever for a position player. Cespedes reportedly received higher, longer offers elsewhere—possibly from the Nationals and White Sox—but gave the Mets a discount because he loved playing in New York so much.

As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal points out, this lineup is now scary full with that impact bat in the middle of it. And I never doubted his return.

Did the Mets overpay for Cespedes? Sure they did, he’s receiving $27.5 million if/when he opts out after one year. Was it a smart signing? Absolutely, for both sides. Cespedes gets the money he wants and the two insurance years if he doesn’t live up to expectations in 2016, while he gets to re-test a poorer market next offseason if he performs well. The Mets get the advantage of a short-term deal either way, knowing that there’s a good chance that they’re only in it for one year—which will allows Michael Conforto to develop into the slugger the organization thinks he can be. The kicker? Cespedes puts on a show. His bat-flips, his arm—, hell, even the way he strikes out; he simply sells tickets. Fans voiced how unhappy they would be with a Cespedes-less Mets; and the front office listened.

Whether ownership liked it or not, fans would have started a riot outside Citi Field had Cespedes landed with Murphy in D.C.—which was self-evident given their crude comments on the Mets’ social media the past couple days. Cespedes’ bat solidifies the lineup tenfold—there’s a lot less pressure on Duda, Wright, and Conforto with Yoenis smack in the middle of them. To top it off, Terry Collins and David Wright both issued statements in the past several days in favor of Cespedes’ return to the New York Post and New York Daily News, respectively; Wright going as far to say that he would “put his name behind the statement that Yo was a good teammate on the field and a great teammate off the field”.

I’m not sure if I’m happier that he’s a Met or just not a National—but either way, welcome back, Yo. Here’s to a cannon, cigar, bat-flip-filled 2016.

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Mets Agree to Terms With Antonio Bastardo

The Mets and lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo are reportedly in agreement on a deal, according to multiple reports. The deal is worth $12 million for two years.

Bastardo was a cog in the Philadelphia playoff-machine, bursting on to the scene in 2011, when he posted a 2.64 ERA and held opposing batters to a .144 batting average. He spent last season with the Pirates, owning an ERA of 2.98 with a .188 opposing batting average, along with a 1.13 WHIP—his lowest since his 2011 season.

At age 30, with the current market, $6 million a season is a steal for a guy like Bastardo. Fellow lefty Tony Sipp—who had an amazing 2015 season following an otherwise adequate career—landed a 3 year, $18 million contract with the Astros. Bastardo has had more consistent major-league success, and to get him for less than what Sipp cost is a win in and of itself.

The Bastardo signing is great and all, but it creates an awful lot of lefty pitching in that bullpen. Sean Gilmartin is returning following a dominant season, and Josh Edgin is set to return from Tommy John surgery in early May. Minor leaguers Dario Alvarez and Josh Smoker are deemed by many to be major league-ready. The additions of Jerry Blevins and Bastardo supply the Mets with proven veteran southpaw arms—but it’s going to make things awfully difficult once Spring Training rolls around. From the right side of the bullpen, Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed are the only shoo-ins for the upcoming season. Erik Goeddel, Rafael Montero, Carlos Torres, Jim Henderson, Hansel Robles, and Logan Verrett will have to battle it out for the remaining spots in the bullpen.

Most of all—if I had to guess—the Bastardo signing can also be used as a preemptive distracter for when the Mets fail to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. Could Bastardo’s money have been better used elsewhere, given the lefty depth they have? Yes, I believe so. Take back the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera, Alejandro de Aza, and Bastardo, and that’s $20 million that could’ve been spent on Cespedes, Jason Heyward, or even Dexter Fowler—all of which probably would’ve made fans much more happy. However, I think panic city shouldn’t erupt quite yet. Bastardo, Reed, and Familia anchoring the back end of the bullpen is quite a combo. A bench that consists of de Aza, Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada is much better than John Mayberry Jr, Danny Muno and Eric Campbell. Also, let’s not forget that Juan Lagares his .348 in the postseason—let’s finally give him a chance before we slam the front office for not spending enough. It’s evident that the Mets built on their success in 2015—they improved the team without significantly increasing payroll, a strategy which many fans tend to disapprove of.

All-in-all, the Bastardo signing is great, especially in a division that could easily be spoiled by the impressive Nationals’ lefties, Bryce Harper along with new additions Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere. Lastly on the Mets’ checklist is a right-handed bench outfielder/first baseman—which can be solved with low-risk, high-reward guys on the free agent market like Steve Pearce or Ryan Raburn, or internally with minor leaguer Jayce Boyd.

 

 

Piazza Elected to Hall of Fame

Major League Baseball in its entirety will now formally recognize what Mets fans have for so long: the greatest hitting catcher to ever play the game. Mike Piazza was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this past week, and will be inducted this summer in no other colors but blue and orange.

Piazza, the 12-time All Star, was put on the ballot this year for the fourth time—being elected with 83% of the vote with fellow star Ken Griffey Jr. A career .308 hitter, Piazza’s election didn’t come as a surprise to many. The offensively-gifted catcher hit 427 homers and drove in 1,335 runs across 6,911 at bats in parts of 16 MLB seasons—his biggest moment, of course, being his home run in post-9/11 New York City: a shot heard around the world.

Johnson Signs With Braves, EYJ With Brewers

Ex-Met Kelly Johnson has re-signed with the Braves—his third stint with Atlanta. The contract is for one year and $2 million. I can’t imagine what the Braves plan on doing with Kelly, as they’ve already signed free agents Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio. A trade brought Erick Aybar to Atlanta, all of whom further the Braves’ depth of up-and-coming talent in Daniel CastroAdonis Garcia, Hector Olivera, Jace Peterson, and Joey Terdoslavich. The idea seems to be showcase low-cost veterans (Johnson, Beckham, Bonifacio, Aybar) and trade them at the deadline for prospects. Not a bad concept for a team that hopes to compete within two years.

Eric Young Jr. has signed a minor league contact with the Brewers, adding depth to an outfield that includes another former Met in Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

I was a big fan of both of these Mets, and thought they each had a case to be brought back in 2016. I felt as though Johnson brought and embraced a super-utilityman type bench role that was important to the Mets’ success down the stretch. Although the front office considers Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera an improvement over Johnson—they have much less versatility. As for Young, he brought a spark-plug-type presence that I haven’t seen in orange and blue since Jose Reyes. Sure, he didn’t have the average, on base percentage, or even power that Reyes possessed—but the 2013 National League Stolen Base Leader’s speed and base running ability are unmatched and have the potential to give a spark to any lineup.

 

Nationals Sign Daniel Murphy

The Nationals and ex-Met have finalized a three year contract worth $37.5 million. Murphy and his new team will be holding a news conference on Thursday.

With the replacement of Neil Walker, letting Murphy go was no surprise from the Mets’ front office. However, I don’t think anyone predicted he’d end up with the rival. Since the Mets extended Murphy a qualifying offer at the beginning of the offseason which he denied, the Nationals will be surrendering their first-round draft pick for signing him. In return for losing a key asset, the Mets will gain a supplemental draft pick following the first round.

Murphy will join Stephen Drew, another recent signing, in Washington to provide depth behind infielders Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa. After shipping Yunel Escobar, who batted .314 last year, to the Angels, I must wonder what kind of improvement Murphy and Drew will be, if one at all. At the very least, I suppose signing Murph’ is a punch in the gut to the Mets—but with losses of starting pitching such as Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, I have to imagine that Murphy’s money could have been better spent elsewhere.

No doubt, I’ll miss Murph. I think he was a key piece to the organization, and not just this past year. He was the second-longest tenured Met next to David Wright; he saw the organization through the thick and thin. Although he showed subpar, sometimes even woeful, defense, he played where he was asked to for the sake of the team. Whether it be playing left field, first, second, or third base, Murphy was a team player. To look at some silver lining, his deal is only for three years, after all—meaning a New York/Murphy reunion may not eventually be out of the question.

Grievance: Brewers Claim Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, eight days removed from being the lone elf at the Mets’ holiday party, will be shipping out to Milwaukee for Christmas after being claimed off waivers by the Brewers.

Nieuwenhuis was taken off of the 40-man roster yesterday to make room for the signing of fellow left-handed outfielder Alejandro De Aza. The Brewers have been busy, also claiming catcher Josmil Pinto from the Padres, and first baseman Andy Wilkins from the Rangers.

This move will make sense to me if and only if the Mets’ front office is planning on moving both Juan Lagares and De Aza to the bench. This will make sense if they have their sights on Yoenis Cespedes or Dexter Fowler. If not, and they instead pursue another back-up like Ryan Raburn like their past predicts they will do, Happy Festivus, because this is a major grievance of mine.

Kirk, similar to Wilmer Flores, (who ironically was nearly acquired by Milwaukee in a mid-season 2015 trade) brings an emotional story to fans’ eyes. A former third round draft pick, Nieuwenhuis was claimed off waivers by the Angels in May of 2015, only to be re-claimed by New York in June. The time in between was one of great thinking for the then-27 year old, even considering retirement at one point. Kirk, the devout Christian, looked to his faith in God as a reason to continue playing.

After a slow start to the season, Kirk came back to New York with something to prove. He promptly did so by having the first ever three-homer home game by a Met and a game-winning home run late in the season against the rival Washington Nationals to boot. These were two highlights of not only his career, but of the Mets’ shining new dynasty.

The emotionally-bound, farm-grown, on-the-rise Nieuwenhuis, who commands a measly salary of just over $500K this upcoming season, will now be replaced by the $5.75 million lateral aging acquisition, Alejandro De Aza.

I’m sorry, what?

I can’t help but wonder what the front office is thinking by wasting $5 million for a player of more or less equal caliber. Kirk is a far better fielder with more pop, whereas De Aza is a better contact hitter with slightly more speed. You mean to tell me that front office considers defense $5 million less important? Don’t get me wrong—I’ve always been a big fan of De Aza, and even supported the Mets’ decision to sign him while most fans didn’t. However, for some reason this front office has something against Kirk Nieuwenhuis—I just never thought they would sign a back-up caliber player for $5 million more to boot him out of the organization. I would love to hear the explanation behind doing so.

All I can say is that I hope Kirk does great things in Milwaukee. This organization has done an immense disservice to the former #3 prospect, and I hope he gets a better chance to succeed in Milwaukee. He’ll be vying for a job in center field in a struggling Brewers lineup, and I’m very interested and excited to see the numbers he can put up if he lands a starting job. As much as I’d love to see him back in a Mets uniform—for his sake, I sure hope the Mets don’t re-re-claim Nieuwenhuis. Best of luck, Kirk.

Mets To Sign Alejandro De Aza

The Mets are in agreement on a deal with free agent outfielder Alejandro De Aza, and fans across New York are outraged. The deal is reportedly for one year worth $5.75 million, with an additional $1.25 in incentives.

Let me start off by saying that, once again, I will provide the unpopular opinion in that I like this signing.

Mets fans can complain about it all they want, but the front offices’ restricted available funds is a reality that needs to be accepted. Standards must be lowered for free agency in Queens—until the expenses of Bobby Bonilla and Bernie Madoff are paid off at least. That being said, the Mets absolutely overpaid for De Aza. The guy was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles last year—after which his season was nothing short of average—and now he has a potential to take $7 million from a financially inept team? The deal is poor for the Mets, but the thought is spot on.

De Aza has always been a favorite of mine. He has shown potential, but has never replicated his 17 homer, 20 stolen base 2013 season with the Chicago White Sox. He batted .292 in a Red Sox uniform last year, and finished with a respectable .262 on the year following a deadline trade to the San Francisco Giants.

 

De Aza is a career .274 hitter from the left side of the plate, giving the Mets an attractive platoon option with Juan Lagares. His WAR has decreased every year since 2012, when he topped off at 2.7 and bottomed out at 1.2 last year. He hasn’t played center field regularly since 2013, when he was a liability in the field, owning a -18 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). He patrolled left field for the majority of the 2014 and 2015 seasons, when he had a slightly more respectable -8 DRS.

What De Aza lacks in the field can be made up at the plate. His key is, and always has been, to get on base. He doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of power, hitting a maximum of 9 home runs in a given season, excluding 2013. However, he has had 15+ stolen bases four times in his major league career. On Base Percentage, important to any speedster, has been his strong suit—never once dipping below .310 since his second year with the Florida Marlins.

All-in-all, this is a good depth move for the Mets. I think the fans that thought Cespedes would be re-signed are naïve and are asking for too much. Sure, the Mets are coming off a World Series appearance and should presumably have money to spend—but the fact of the matter is, for one reason or another, they don’t. And if fans can’t accept that, they need to take a trip over to the Bronx, because quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing the moaning and groaning from fans. The offseason moves thus far have put the Mets in far better shape going into 2016 than 2015, and, if my memory serves me correctly, they did pretty darn well in the latter. If the season calls for it, I absolutely trust Sandy Alderson to pull the trigger at the trade deadline—in fact, the salary flexibility from not signing the Jason Heyward’s and Yoenis Cespedes’ of the league will come in handy then.

Where this leaves the offseason, I’m not quite sure. They got their lefty out of their bullpen in Jerry Blevins, their middle infield-duo in Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, and now their platoon center fielder in De Aza. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another reliever signing—and with the money they saved from not re-signing Cespedes, I would guess they’re right in the mix for high-end names like Tyler Clippard and Greg Holland. To many fans’ disappointment, I wouldn’t rule out a Bobby Parnell reunion, either.

Where we stand now, this is how I’d configure the opening day lineup, in contrast to last years:

2015 Lineup

  1. Curtis Granderson-RF
  2. David Wright-3B
  3. Lucas Duda-1B
  4. Michael Cuddyer-LF
  5. Daniel Murphy-2B
  6. Juan Lagares-CF
  7. Travis d’Arnaud-C
  8. Wilmer Flores-SS
  9. Bartolo Colon-P

Bench: Kirk Nieuwenhuis-OF, Anthony Recker-C, John Mayberry Jr.-OF, Ruben Tejada-SS

2016 Lineup

  1. Alejandro De Aza-CF
  2. Neil Walker-2B
  3. David Wright-3B
  4. Curtis Granderson-RF
  5. Travis d’Arnaud-C
  6. Lucas Duda-1B
  7. Michael Conforto-LF
  8. Asdrubal Cabrera-SS
  9. Matt Harvey-P

Bench: Kevin Plawecki-C, Wilmer Flores-INF, Ruben Tejada-INF, Juan Lagares-OF, Kirk Nieuwenhuis-OF