You gotta sign this guy! But not the guy you think.
Yoenis Cespedes has fueled the remarkable run that the Mets have been on this season. He has hit 17 home runs, 44 RBIs along with a .946 OPS making him one of the best mid-season acquisitions in Mets history. These numbers have made a fan base fall in love with the Cuban slugger and we have seen countless fans agonizing over whether the Mets will reach into their pockets to sign him.
The fact of the matter is Cespedes was acquired as a rental, and a great one at that. We need to cherish our time with Cespedes while we have it and hope we can ride him to a deep October run but a long term deal is not in the best interests of this club for the future.
The major leagues has a shortage of power and a bat like Cespedes’ is going to claim a huge payday this offseason. Jacoby Ellsbury signed a seven year deal worth $153 million in 2013 and it would not be surprising if Cespedes not only matched that number but exceeded it this offseason. Sadly this team has not acted like a big market team in a long time and it does not seem like that will change while under this ownership.
Outfield depth was a glaring issue for the club last year but with the resurgence of Curtis Granderson and the emergence of Michael Conforto it should no longer be considered a priority. Let’s not forget that Juan Lagares is just one year removed from a gold glove season that netted him his 4 year $23 million contract. Lagares has a .259 batting average this year which matches his career number of .261. He might not ever become an all-star outfielder but he has crushed left handed pitching and his glove is still something to build around out in center field. He is also only 26 years old which is the prime age for most outfielders.
There is also another first round draft pick waiting in the wings in Brandon Nimmo. Nimmo got off to a torrid start this year in Binghamton where he had a slash line of .279/.354/.368. This start got him promoted to Las Vegas where his batting average took a slight dip but he saw increase in OBP and slugging percentage .264/.393/.418. The starting outfield opening day in 2018 could very well be Conforto, Lagares, and Nimmo. This would be a great inexpensive homegrown outfield. With that future along with the hefty contracts of Granderson and Cuddyer a move to sign Cespedes would not be a wise one.
The next part of this dilemma is what else could be done with the money that would be saved on letting Cespedes walk. My answer is simple, Daniel Murphy. Murph has been a mainstay in Queens since 2009 and has a career batting average of .289. As we all know Murph plays the game his own way especially in the field and on the base paths but year after year he hits.
With Flores and Herrera in the wings some have viewed Murphy as extraneous but I argue that he becomes the perfect bench piece even if there is no job for him in the starting lineup. Murphy has turned himself into a utility player of sorts as he plays an adequate first, second and third base. Moving forward, David Wright is probably not going to be the guy that plays upwards of 140 games a year. The best way to manage Wright’s spinal stenosis is rest and who better to play third base when Wright is on the bench than Murphy. Between filling in for Wright, playing second base as Herrera develops, along with being a clutch left-handed pinch hitter late in game the Mets can find plenty of at bats for Murphy.
Another concern I have with this team is their desire to sign Lucas Duda to a long term deal at first base. Duda is as streaky as they come. His power produces great numbers at the end of the season, but he goes through a lot of cold spells in between which translate to his low career BA of .248.
Duda has 27 home runs thus far this season but almost all of them can be accounted for in three hot streaks. To open up the year from May 21st until the 29th Duda launched six long balls. This was the point of the year where the fan base was frustrated with the front office for not locking Duda up sooner. Then it wasn’t until July 25th, after the Uribe/Johnson trade, that Duda would get hot again. In a stretch that last until August 2nd Duda would hit 10 more homers including his three home run game against the Padres. Now we have the most recent stretch where Duda’s bat helped us clinch the division with three homers in the Reds series and then two more in the first game against the Phillies.
Combine the three streaks and you have 21 of his 27 home runs hit in roughly 4 weeks of a 24 week season. Murphy is a much more consistent hitter than Duda which makes Duda expendable in my opinion. Duda is eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. The Mets could let Duda play out his contract or they could turn him into a lucrative trade chip as many teams would be enamored by his power. So by locking up Murphy to a multi-year deal they could use him to bridge the gap to Dominic Smith.
We must also keep in mind that we will soon have five stud starting pitchers who will either need extensions or will be earning a healthy chunk of change through arbitration. Saving what could be as much as $25 million a year for Cespedes, and locking up a great team guy in Murphy is the best way that the Mets can maximize their most valuable asset and their stellar starting pitching.
For more on Daniel Murphy, check out his exclusive interview with Steve Serby in the NY Post.