Then what? Will the Mets re-sign a player who delivered them to the postseason two years in a row? Will they gamble that at age 31, Cespedes’ days as a superstar are just about complete? And if that’s the case, how can the Mets possibly replace his bat in the middle of their lineup?
All of that will be on general manager Sandy Alderson’s mind once October ends and the offseason begins. With respect to so many other, smaller decisions the Mets must make over the coming months, Cespedes’ future will color their entire winter. The rest of it should look something like this:
Arbitration-eligible: C Travis d’Arnaud, C Rene Rivera, 1B Lucas Duda, IF Wilmer Flores, OF Justin Ruggiano, RHP Jacob deGrom, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Jim Henderson, Matt Harvey, RHP Addison Reed, RHP Zack Wheeler, LHP Josh Edgin.
Options: OF Cespedes (can opt out of contract), LHP Jonathon Niese ($10 million team option with two $500,000 buyouts for 2017 and ’18).
Cespedes’ monster two-run jack
NYM@MIA: Cespedes unleashes a monster two-run dinger
Yoenis Cespedes unloads on a 2-1 pitch and crushes a mammoth two-run homer over the wall to pad the Mets’ lead in the 3rd
Rotation: In theory, Harvey, deGrom and Steven Matz will all be fully healed from their season-ending surgeries by Spring Training, joining Noah Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Wheeler as starting pitching options in camp. But the Mets know better than to expect everyone to be healthy, particularly considering the uncertainty of Harvey’s thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and Matz’s lengthy injury history. If Colon is as willing to return on a team-friendly deal as he was last winter, the Mets could use his services — even if he winds up pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. But Colon, who wants 11 more wins to pass Juan Marichal’s record 243 by a Dominican-born pitcher, may not be willing to do so at age 43. In-house, Gabriel Ynoa is one of the few rotation depth pieces the Mets still possess.
Lugo escapes the jam in the 4th
MIN@NYM: Lugo gets out of a jam with a key strikeout
Seth Lugo picks up a key strikeout in the 4th as he gets Brian Dozier to go down swinging, stranding runners on second and third
Bullpen: This was a strength of the Mets in 2016 and should continue to be going forward, assuming Familia and Reed’s career-high appearance totals don’t result in any long-term ill effects. Though Blevins is a free agent and may not return, Edgin and Josh Smoker give the Mets multiple in-house lefties to replace him. The Mets will also scour free agency for one or two arms to construct a bridge to Familia and Reed. Though his club has already been linked to Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, Alderson detests paying top dollar for relievers.
Smoker strikes out Harper
NYM@WSH: Smoker K’s Harper to retire Nationals in 6th
With runners on first and second and two outs, Josh Smoker gets Bryce Harper looking on strikes to retire the Nationals side in the 6th
Catcher: It would make sense for the Mets to pursue a free-agent starting catcher, considering their lack of production at the position. But the best available backstop, Wilson Ramos, may not be ready for Opening Day, and the options behind him range from slightly flawed to significantly so. That would describe the current state of Mets catchers, as well. Now almost 28 years old, d’Arnaud has never enjoyed a full, healthy season. Backup Kevin Plawecki has not distinguished himself despite many chances to do so, while Rivera does not possess a starter’s offensive skillset. Regardless, all three should return in some form next season.
First base: Though Duda missed four months due to a lower-back stress fracture, he remains the Mets’ top option at first base heading into the winter. At the least, he and Flores can platoon at the position. But the Mets may also use Spring Training to test outfielder Michael Conforto at first, where he could start if Duda’s health issues linger. No. 2 prospect Dominic Smith, the Mets’ best long-term solution at first base, remains at least a year away from the Majors. Loney, whom the Mets acquired to replace Duda this summer, won’t be back.
Second base: Other than outfield, this position holds the most intrigue for the Mets. Before Walker underwent season-ending back surgery, the Mets openly discussed their desire to sign him to a long-term deal. They still have interest heading into the winter, but perhaps not at the same price they once would have considered. If the Mets don’t reacquire Walker to be their starting second baseman, they may dive into an imperfect pool of internal options. Flores can play here, but he is better suited as a platoon option against left-handed pitchers. Shortstop prospect Gavin Cecchini tried his hand at second base late this season, and he should receive significant work there come spring. The Mets also have more interest in re-signing Johnson than they did a year ago.
Rivera’s RBI single
NYM@PHI: Rivera opens the scoring with an RBI single
T.J. Rivera lines a ball into center field, bringing home Curtis Granderson to give the Mets a 1-0 lead in the top of the 4th inning
Perhaps the Mets’ most intriguing second baseman is T.J. Rivera, who hit .369 in 18 games after claiming the starting job from Flores in September. Despite organizational doubts about his hitting approach, Rivera has accomplished enough that he should not get lost in the shuffle.
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera more than earned his keep this season with 23 home runs and an .810 OPS, and he will be the unquestioned starter heading into next year. But New York’s farm system is also stocked with shortstop prospects, most notably Cecchini and Amed Rosario. The former could provide a quick fix if injury again strikes Cabrera, while the latter may debut by season’s end. Matt Reynolds will also be in the picture at shortstop, perhaps as Cabrera’s Opening Day backup.
Cabrera’s great catch
NYM@PHI: Cabrera makes a great catch on a line drive
Asdrubal Cabrera ranges towards second and makes a great grab on Andres Blanco’s sharp line drive in the 8th inning
Third base: On paper, this position still belongs to David Wright. But the captain will be 34 years old, returning from neck surgery and still battling spinal stenosis on a daily basis. Even in a best-case scenario, he won’t be capable of playing every day. The Mets are no longer enthralled with the idea of having Flores serve as Wright’s primary backup, and Eric Campbell isn’t the answer at third, either. A push for a free agent — former Met Justin Turner makes sense here, as someone capable of playing multiple infield positions — could be the answer.
Wright’s leaping stop
NYM@WSH: Wright leaps, fires to first to get the out
David Wright makes a nice leaping stop and throws to first to retire Danny Espinosa in the bottom of the 8th inning
Outfield: Everything depends on Cespedes. If the Mets retain him, they will have four corner outfielders — Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Conforto — for two spots, with no natural center fielder among them. Granderson certainly is capable of playing the position, as he proved down the stretch, but at age 36 that’s not an ideal scenario. The Mets could also trade Bruce, but they would be selling low on him following his poor stretch run. If Brandon Nimmo is ready to start on a regular basis — a big if — he could be an answer in center field. Then there’s Juan Lagares, who seems limited to platoon work at this point in his career. Can he be more? There are no easy answers for the Mets at their most complicated position.
Nimmo’s diving catch
COL@NYM: Nimmo robs Blackmon with a nice diving catch
Brandon Nimmo gets a great jump on Charlie Blackmon’s flare, goes into a head-long dive and makes the catch for the first out of the game
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source: Mets News / Center field, second base in limbo for Mets in 2017