Let’s Talk About Cespedes, Baby

I was at Dutch Wonderland with my wife and daughter when I learned that the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes. If you’ve never been, or never heard of this place, it’s an amusement park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for kids. Essentially, it has rides for toddlers on up and lots and lots of ice cream. Also there’s a food stand there that sells French fries for eight bucks a pop and somehow makes you find that to be a value. The cashier mistakenly thought I wanted three of these (think of a typical food tray with about half of it piled high with delicious golden brown French fries), and since both my wife and daughter aren’t particularly big eaters, I was left to take care of this starchy dilemma.

Let’s just say I did man’s work to those spuds.

The point of that is that my stomach was in no mood for Mets/Wilpons/Alderson nonsense at 3:45 after a day spent in 95 degree weather with a stomach of grease and a toddler increasingly losing her mind from fun. The first report I read, on Twitter, was that the Mets sent Zack Wheeler to Detroit for Cespedes. I believe it was from Ken Rosenthal. Of course, seeing that it was from Rosenthal I sort of figured that it was nonsense and probably something he overheard standing in line at a Men’s Warehouse, but I was upset nonetheless. Just the thought of the Mets sending Wheeler to Detroit for Cespedes was enough to make me queasier than I had been, even more so than the spinning turtles.

I love Twitter normally. It’s a great way to read increasingly frantic messages from people who are prone to overreaction.  It’s tough to be both clever and readable without a bit of hyperbole thrown in. But, for trade deadline information, it can be frustrating. Writers are posting whatever thought pops into their head apparently, and I can’t confirm it, but I’m sure someone suggested a trade had been offered with the Mets sending Matt Harvey to the Orioles for Buck Showalter. After Thursday, I might have been the one to do that. I can neither confirm nor deny. In a rush to be the first one to report breaking news–otherwise known as the publish or perish mindset–the validity of the information is secondary to the audacity.

Whatever. It’s August now.

Believe me, I understand the team needs offense. Since the trade for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, the team has been held under three runs or fewer in four of the seven games they’ve played. The offense was improved, but it wasn’t exactly fixed. Also, the NL East is winnable this year. All year long we’ve been reading (and I’ve said more than a few times) that it was only a matter of time before the Nationals turned on the jets and ran away with this division. We’re about 60 games out from the end of the season, the Mets are two games back, and the Nats are starting to get healthy but have dealt with enough injuries this season that you wonder if things will ever start to click.

The Nats have the obvious picks for NL MVP and Cy Young at this point in the season, and they’re two games up. The East is up for grabs.

But, what killed me about the idea of Wheeler for Cespedes is that the Mets had all the advantage. Who was Detroit going to get for Cespedes? He’s a free agent at season’s end and couldn’t be offered the qualifying offer. He was going to either get max dollars from Detroit or head elsewhere. It was a horrible waste of resources, and it had panic move written all over it. Also, if the worry is that Wheeler won’t really be ready to compete until 2017 because of recovering from Tommy John surgery and the accounting ledger with so many young pitchers hitting those arbitration years simultaneously, then why not keep him, let him recover on your team and explore trade possibilities with your other pitchers (who would restock the farm system with stud prospects instantly)?

I don’t want to see a trade in the future. I want nothing more than to see the team use those resources from playing in New York and being extremely popular and sign all of these guys into their 30s. It won’t happen, though, and we might as well think long term. Well, needless to say that’s not what happened.

Rosenthal was distracted by a killer bowtie presumably.

The loss of Michael Fulmer is a real one. It’ll be felt in one way or another in the years to come, but it’s worth it to me. What’s the point of having so much pitching in the minors if everyone is racking up innings for Las Vegas? Organizational depth is awesome, but you can’t have a 10-man rotation no matter how inventive your team is.

If Cespedes arrival spells the end of Michael Cuddyer in left, then I’m okay with that. Cespedes is a huge upgrade defensively in left. His defensive rating of 10.5 ranks 11th overall in the major leagues for all position players and he’s comfortably ahead of all left fielders. Now, I can’t imagine a world where Cespedes is a superior left fielder to Alex Gordon, but let’s just say the cannon attached to Cespedes arm at birth will never be used to pitch cricket like Cuddyer did earlier this year. Defensively alone the trade is a huge win, but his glove wasn’t the reason why the Mets traded so high upside arms to Detroit.

Cespedes is sort of destroying baseballs this season. He’s hitting .293/.323/.506 with 18 home runs. His BB% of 4.4 will keep that OBP down, but it’s still an improvement over that .250/.303/.380 line Cuddyer was bringing to the park each night. Cespedes will provide protection for Lucas Duda, and while I don’t imagine Duda will continue to have two and three home run nights each night, I’m willing to take a bet that his numbers drastically improve now that pitchers have to think about the other batters around him. Maybe they’ll continue throwing that first one in the dirt, but those 1-0 and 2-0 fastballs might catch a little more of the middle of the plate.

If there’s some worry here, I’m concerned that Cespedes hasn’t hit lefties particularly well this season. He’s hitting .183/.236/.329 this season against lefties, and in his career he’s hit just .249/.316/.452. That won’t help the Mets major league worst average against lefties. As a team, they’re hitting .214/.282/.353, but seeing as the Mets face lefties only 25% of their at-bats, I guess that’s a relatively minor risk. The team won’t see someone like Clayton Kershaw again unless it’s the playoffs, and how many times, realistically, will the team face Gio Gonzalez again? Once, maybe twice? Also, Cespedes is a free agent at the end of the year, and there’s not a snowball’s chance the Mets re-sign him.

Still. This was a nice rebound from the Carlos Gomez debacle, and it’s nice to see a buzz around the team again. I was seriously ready to call baseball quits if the team sent Wheeler to the Reds for Jay Bruce, so I’m glad Alderson spared me that fate.

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