Mets Can’t Count On Cespedes, Need Starting Outfielder

On Wednesday, Omar Minaya went on MLB Network Radio to talk about a variety of topics involving the New York Mets.

Minaya, former Mets GM and current special assistant to the Mets new GM, grabbed Mets fans attention when he talked about the return of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, “There’s not a specific timetable right now…….if he gives us anything this year, that is gravy.”

Cespedes, underwent double heel surgery this offseason, is one of only four outfielders on the Mets current 40-man roster. Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares are the other three. Lagares is coming off surgery himself, and a season in which he played only 20 games. In fact, the last time the played at least 100 games in a season was 2015.

Translation: The Mets top target right now should be a starting caliber outfielder.

They have signed Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco to minor league deals. Given the Mets lack of upper level outfielder prospects – players like Davis and Blanco are necessary for AAA/6th outfielder depth – though they shouldn’t be counted on for anything more than that.

Keep in mind that the Mets do have insurance on Cespedes’ contract, though the exact percentage is not known. Jeff Wilpon has said that the percentage is lower than the 75% rate they have on David Wright. Cespedes is set to make $29 million in 2019 and $29.5 million in 2020 (the final season on his contract).

The best outfielder on the market is obviously Bryce Harper, but there’s been no indication that the Mets have serious interest in signing him.

A.J. Pollock is in the tier below Harper, and the recent buzz suggests that the Mets are not still interested in signing him after getting a right-handed bat in Wilson Ramos.

Pollock is a good fit for the Mets because he’s a true center fielder that would allow Conforto and Nimmo to stay in the corners, where they’re both better defensively. Pollock does have injury concerns though (113 games last year, 112 in 2017 and only 12 in 2016), and given the state of the free agent outfield market he’s likely to be priced out of the Mets range.

After Harper and Pollock, the market falls of considerably. The next tier consists of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Curtis Granderson and Carlos Gonzalez then after that you have Brandon Guyer, Carlos Gomez, Jon Jay, Denard Span, Cameron Maybin, Matt Joyce, Gerardo Parra, Melky Cabrera, etc. The versatile Marwin Gonzalez is another name we have mentioned on MMO numerous times, given his good work defensively in the outfield with 8 DRS and 6.4 UZR.

Markais had the best 2018 season of the previous group, he hit .297/.366/.440 with 43 doubles, 14 home runs, 93 RBI, and only 80 strikeouts in 162 games for the Braves. The downside here is that he’s a corner outfielder and would force Nimmo to center. It would also give the Mets an all lefty hitting outfielder, though all of them hit lefties fairly well in 2018 (Markakis .765 OPS, Conforto .808 OPS, Nimmo .742 OPS).

Unfortunately for the Mets, the center field trade market isn’t booming either. Instead, there’s corner guy in Nick Castellanos and Nomar Mazara possibly available.

Given that Harper, Pollock, and possibly even Gonzalez are out of the Mets price, new GM Brodie Van Wagenen will have to get creative in his effort to improve the outfield situation. The Mets certainly cannot afford to go into the 2019 with just Lagares, Nimmo, Conforto, and Cespedes on the 40-man roster. Moreover, they should shoot higher than the likes of Adam Jones, Jon Jay, and Melky Cabrera.

About Michael Mayer 1199 Articles
Lifelong Mets fan born in 1987 meaning I still haven't witnessed a championship. Lived in Maine my entire life so I get my Mets fix from MLB.tv and MiLB.tv. Still playing and coaching baseball.Follow me on twitter @mikemayermmo