I do not accept the term “undecided,” whether it be at the voting booth today or Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s stance on whether to bring back Yoenis Cespedes.
After all this time, you can’t honestly say you flipped a coin at the voting booth. Just the same, I don’t buy for a second Alderson needs more clarity on whether the Mets should bring back the high maintenance Cespedes.
The Mets didn’t reach an agreement with Cespedes last year until Jan. 26, and that resolution meant giving him an opt-out after one season.
Here’s what Alderson told reporters at the start of the general manager’s meetings in Arizona: “I think realistically, from our standpoint this year, things will probably have to resolve themselves a lot sooner than they did last year.
“But it’s hard to predict where things will go. Things could go quickly. Things could linger. But certainly, from our standpoint, between now and the winter meetings, and through the end of the winter meetings, would be the right time to get some of these issues resolved. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.”
What Alderson is saying is so far all the leverage in these negotiations belongs to Cespedes. These meetings will linger if Alderson doesn’t take control of the negotiations.
Alderson admitted he long thought Cespedes would opt out of the contract and test the market. Hell, he should have figured it when he signed him in January. Alderson is a smart guy. If he knew Cespedes was leaving, then he could also forecast the financial market for him and what teams might be interested. Above all, he should know by now whether the Mets can live with Cespedes’ antics and if they can afford him.
Alderson should already know the answers to the following questions:
* One, do the Mets want Cespedes back?
* Two, are they willing to put up with the negatives Cespedes brings to the table, which includes stunting the opportunity for Michael Conforto?
* Three, how much money are they willing to throw at him at the expense of their other issues?
If Alderson doesn’t know the answers by now, he’s not doing a good job. It’s not all that hard to figure out.
Alderson met with Cespedes’ representatives last week, but said salary was not discussed. Why the hell not? Alderson said the meeting was to inform Cespedes’ agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, of the Mets’ interest.
Reportedly, the Mets are concerned about giving a contract of more than four seasons because, 1) they aren’t sure Cespedes will give maximum effort after getting the security blanket, and 2) Cespedes’ injury history last year (only 132 games played).
If they are worried about injury and effort, they why are they going through this? Those are serious red flags.
If the Mets really want Cespedes back they have to assume control of the negotiations. They have to play hardball. The $17.2 million qualifying offer given Cespedes and Neil Walker was to assure receiving a compensatory draft pick. That’s the first step and it was to protect themselves.
The key to is for Alderson to get Cespedes’ demands now and not wait for the market to develop. Don’t dance with this guy. Alderson needs to set a deadline, tell the Cespedes camp what his best offer is, and other issues, such as playing center field, receiving rehab and golfing.
The Mets have a myriad of issues to address this winter and dancing with Cespedes into the new year will hamper those efforts. Fixing their bullpen which they must assume will not include Jeurys Familia for at least the season’s first 30 games; upgrading their catching; and ascertaining the health of their young rotation are all more important issues than Cespedes. They can always get a cheaper right-handed bat in the market and figure a refreshed Jay Bruce will fill the offensive void left by Cespedes leaving. That void can also be further filled with Conforto playing more.
Frankly, Alderson’s most important offseason decision is to decide just how good are the Mets. Was the World Series in 2015 a fluke or are they an 87-win team, capable of contending but not going much further than the wild card?
If you think the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, think again.
Cespedes was hot in August of 2015 and surely the Mets wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without him. However, it was Daniel Murphy and solid pitching that took them to the World Series.
Cespedes disappeared that posteason, much as he did for much of this September when he hit .214 with a .297 on-base percentage, four homers and 18 RBI. Unquestionably Cespedes had glittering moments, but it must be remembered in the second half of the season, with every game important, he hit .246 with ten homers and 34 RBI.
If you believe the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, ask yourself what have they really won with him? Is getting to the World Series and losing that big of a deal?
So, if Cespedes still is a Met priority, Alderson has to set the financial parameters early, making sure the numbers – both money and years – is in the form of a take-it-or-leave-it format. And, when the deadline date is reached – perhaps at the end of the Winter Meetings – walk away.
Like I said, the Mets have a lot of work to do and they can’t afford to let Cespedes impede what must be done.
Please follow me on Twitter