Before the Cespedes signing, the Mets had a solid off-season. They lost a major bat in Daniel Murphy but found a reasonable replacement in Neil Walker (more defense, more power, less average), increased depth with Cabrera, signed Bartolo to round out the rotation and later become part of the pen, and then got Bastardo on steal deal. The Mets would have been good at that point, at least an improved team from the start of the 2015 season.
In other off-seasons of Mets baseball, that probably would have been a solid “B” grade. However, the Mets just made it to the World Series, and have 3 more years of control on all of their young arms. Not getting a major bat to some degree was inexcusable. If there ever was a time to go all in, it is the next three seasons.
Cespedes does so much for the team outside of just being the important bat in the middle of the lineup. First, he pushes Lagares and de Aza to become late inning guys / pinch hitters. The Mets now have a solid starting 3 in the outfield with a reasonable late inning defensive replacement. Pinch hitting before would have been some combination of Flores/Cabrera which ever OF wasn’t starting, Kirk and Campbell. Now our pinch hitting situation involves all major league players.
Cespedes also changes the composition of the lineup completely. He pushes Duda out of cleanup, and forces Conforto into the 7th spot. Without Cespedes, Duda is up to 4th, d’Arnaud has to hit 5th, de Aza is probably 7th with Cabrera still 8th. On days when Lagares would start, the Mets would then have two 8 spots in their lineup with Lagares and Cabrera going back to back. Cespedes stretches out this lineup in a much needed way.
Basically, Cespedes makes all of the smaller moves done this off-season into smaller, role moves. Like they should be. The Mets became a chore to watch in June of last year when they kept running out their best pitchers followed by a AAA lineup.
This team just became so much more exciting to watch in 2016, and it’s because of an impact bat.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss about what is happening in Queens that Flores cried, Wheeler called and Cespedes walked away from at least 25 million more.