Yoenis Céspedes is the New York Mets’ best hitter since Mike Piazza. Therefore, Sandy Alderson cannot let him walk away.
David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado. These are the names you’d think of when quipped with the question of which Mets were the biggest offensive power and RBI threats in the post-Piazza era.
To define, I’m referencing the type of player who has a knack for the long ball, often in the biggest spots of games, series, or seasons. This player hit the home run ball consistently and represented the threat of going yard every time he stepped up to the plate. He drove in runs as a result and was an offensive catalyst through and through.
This player is Yoenis Céspedes, through and through.
But when I ask you to find a likeness of Céspedes’ potency and his bat’s fear-striking nature in recent Mets’ history, the best you’d come to is Wright, Beltran, and Delgado.
Each had his prowess in Queens known in the game at some point or another: Delgado slugged 38 home runs in both the 2006 and 2008 seasons, Beltran reigned as an offensive force from 2006 to 2008, and Wright emerged as an excellent hitter since his first full season in 2005 – hitting for both power and average up until the Mets’ move to Citi Field, when he became largely one-dimensional at the plate.
During those time frames, yes, opponents shook in their boots at the sight of one of these threats. But in between and after those time frames, the trio was injured, incapable, or out of the game entirely (sorry, Delgado). Beltran was on and off the field from the day Citi Field opened its doors in 2009, and in his resurgent 2011 season, he was rightfully traded at the deadline. Delgado never played a day after 2008, so it might be more reasonable to say his two powerful seasons were aberrations. And then David Wright, whose Mets’ career is indisputably the best among the three, had his fair share of injury hiccups. Wright’s power has all but disappeared since his 29 home run 2010 season, and each of his last four seasons (2013-2016) have been plagued by injury and lack of production.
All this leads me to my point: Yoenis Céspedes is the most consistently productive, and all around best hitter the Mets have had rostered since Mike Piazza. You can name Wright, Delgado, and Beltran – but not without also mentioning their collective downfalls (injury being chief among them, but also a lack of overall consistency). With that reality in mind, it’s hard to imagine a world with Céspedes playing in another uniform.
Céspedes’ 31 home runs last season was a drop off from his 35 in 2015, but had he been healthy for the 159 games he played last year (as opposed to the 132 he played this year due to a quad injury), he’d be on pace for a career-high 37. Driving in runs is second nature to Céspedes, as his 104 RBI for every 162 games exemplifies his penchant for the dramatic, and the clutch shot to change a season’s direction.
If he stays healthy, as indicative by the numbers, or the uber-consistent numbers might you say, Céspedes is a good bet to hit 35 bombs and drive in 100 runs. Health, too, has been mostly on the side of the Cuban in his Major League career, patching up and concerns of durability and attaining those lofty numbers. Céspedes played in 152 and 159 games in 2014 and ‘15, respectively, and reportedly told his manager upon meeting him for the first time, “I play every day.”
Put the run production and the power aside for a moment – and put that clutch flare out of mind while you’re at it. Hitting for average has always been apart of Céspedes’ game – he owns a career .272 batting clip – but his ability to get on base has actually improved. Céspedes’ on-base percentage of .354 last year was nearly a 30-point jump from his combined 2015 stats, largely thanks to a career-high 9.4% walk rate. That increased discipline was not met with a power funk, making Céspedes one of the most well-rounded and threatening offensive players in the game.
And it’s time for him to come home. Back to New York – where he belongs; where, with an absence of his potent bat, the Mets are diminished to a team of regulars, a team of decent offensive output from a handful of positions and below-average work from the others. Quite frankly, the Mets are the team that needs him most. Considering the youth and injury volatility of the team’s stellar pitching staff, not one pundit can assess the future as clearly as it was once thought to be – which was vividly bright. Now, with the long-term picture fogged out, 2017 is the time to strike.
Come back, Yoenis. Come home.