For sure, the Mets should regard Yoenis Cespedes as a cautionary tale.
Will they grasp the proper moral to the story, though?
You’re worried the latest Cespedes bombshell — the multiple fractures in his right ankle, purportedly suffered at his Port St. Lucie, Fla. ranch, announced Monday by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen — will make the Mets’ owners, already financially conservative, even more averse to the nine-figure contracts that go to the game’s finest players, now that their four-year, $110 million commitment to Cespedes looks even worse. Based on history, your concern is valid.
Nevertheless, perhaps they’ll consider this free counsel: Their mistake came not in re-upping with Cespedes three offseasons ago, but rather in failing to create a fail-safe against the worst-case scenario that came to fruition after re-signing the outfielder.
The Cespedes mess should prompt them to spend more money, in other words. Not less.
Let’s start with this premise: While Cespedes’ stay in Queens has turned into a fiasco — especially now, with the Mets at least considering measures to reclaim Cespedes’ future salary if he suffered this grisly injury while performing forbidden actions — it doesn’t rank as a disaster. Because when choosing poisons, you’d rather deal with a ghost than a haunt.
With only 119 games played out of 371 (including Tuesday night) since signing his contract, Cespedes easily earns ghost status. Ghosts aren’t around much, and consequently you needn’t pay them anywhere as much, thanks to insurance; the Mets’ policy covers “a little less” than 75 percent of Cespedes’ deal, as per team COO Jeff Wilpon. Throw in the fact Cespedes has put up a strong .282/.343/.525 slash line in those 119 healthy games, with 26 homers in 432 at-bats, and it’s not like the Mets dreaded his returns from inactivity.
A haunt would be poor Albert Pujols, who shows up for work every day and gets plenty of playing time by virtue of the massive, 10-year, $240 million contract the Angels gave him in 2011. And the future Hall of Famer, now 39, hurts his team’s chances of winning more than he helps with dreadful, far-past-his-prime results.
You feel that Cespdes has hurt the franchise with his injury- and golf-fueled drama? You loved that penchant for drama when his larger-than-life aura instantly captivated the fan base and his teammates upon arriving here in the 2015 trade with the Tigers … and powered the Mets to their remarkable run to the World Series that season … and pushed them to their impressive wild-card run in 2016 despite massive injuries. That drama gave the Mets plenty in terms of ticket and souvenir sales, not to mention the less quantifiable yet real buzz factor. At least they collected on the front end before the drama’s dark side took its turn.Think of how much more acceptable a pact the Cespedes deal has been for the Mets than the Yankees’ $153 million investment in Jacoby Ellsbury, someone they knew only across the field, or the Red Sox’s $72.5 million in Rusney Castillo, a player they evaluated largely from a showcase. Those will go down as colossal wastes of money. However, while Ellsbury rests on a hammock created by medical paperwork and Castillo spends a fifth(!) season at Triple-A Pawtucket, the Yankees and Red Sox remain competitive because they followed bad money with good, not only on free agents but also on high-caliber scouts and analysts as well as countless other tools.
The Mets therefore deserve credit by extending Jacob deGrom for $137.5 million. They deserve blame if they use deGrom’s uneven start as another reason to play it safe.
On Tuesday afternoon, before the Mets continued their series with the Nationals at Citi Field, Mickey Callaway passed on addressing Cespedes’ situation. “Brodie will handle all that,” the manager said, and that made sense. This issue of Cespedes’ weird injury rises above Callaway’s pay grade.
It should be everyone’s issue, however, that the Mets don’t use this latest Cespedes craziness as an excuse for alligator arms. Even if it turns out that Cespedes’ injury resulted from wrestling alligators in the Florida swamps.