Tag: NL East

Odubel Herrera, Phillies Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Reaction

Any thoughts the Philadelphia Phillies had about trading Odubel Herrera have likely gone away after the All-Star center fielder signed a contract extension with the team.

The Phillies announced the five-year extension Thursday.

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the contract will pay Herrera $30.5 million in guarantees and includes option years for 2022 and 2023.

There had been some speculation about the Phillies exploring trade options for Herrera this offseason. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reported during the winter meetings the team “might be willing” to deal the 24-year-old. 

Herrera has been a pleasant surprise in two seasons with the Phillies. He was a Rule 5 draft pick in December 2014 after the Texas Rangers kept him off their 40-man roster because they didn’t have a spot available for him. 

With the Phillies embracing a full-scale rebuild, Herrera made the team’s Opening Day roster. He put together a solid debut season with a .297/.344/.418 slash line in 147 games. 

Herrera was even better in 2016, posting a .286/.361/.420 slash line with 15 home runs, 25 stolen bases and 4.2 wins above replacement, per Baseball-Reference.com. He was named to the National League All-Star team for his efforts. 

MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin noted Herrera’s eight wins above replacement in his first two seasons with the Phillies is the second-best mark in team history, trailing only Dick Allen’s 8.8 in 1964-65.

The Phillies’ commitment to Herrera is the latest sign this franchise is heading in the right direction. It’s going to take more time for the farm system, which MLB.com ranked seventh coming into 2016, to release all of its treasures like shortstop J.P. Crawford and outfielder Nick Williams. 

Herrera is a key piece of the foundation in Philadelphia and will be part of the next great wave of Phillies baseball after signing a long-term extension with the franchise.

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Matt Harvey Comments on Recovery from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Surgery

New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey watched his 2016 campaign come to an abrupt end when he was forced to undergo season-ending surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, but the 2015 National League Comeback Player of the Year sounded optimistic regarding his return when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday. 

According to ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin, the 27-year-old confirmed he’s on the mend and feeling strong on the mound after the surgery “involved removing a rib so that muscles constricting a nerve that bridges the neck and shoulder had space to relax.”

Specifically, Harvey confirmed he’s no longer experiencing numbing sensations in his right throwing hand. 

“My hand was really cold all the time,” he said, per Rubin. “I’ve got some warmth back and no more tingling. The ball is coming out really good right now, especially for December.”

Harvey also expressed optimism regarding his ability to bounce back following a shaky statistical 2016 season precipitated by nerve issues. 

“I’d like to think so. Obviously I don’t have a crystal ball,” Harvey said, per Rubin. “The way things are feeling now, the way the body feels, I’m feeling great.”

In 17 starts last season, Harvey went 4-10 with a career-worst 4.86 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. In fact, it marked the first time in Harvey’s career that he posted an ERA above 3.00. 

Harvey, of course, is no stranger to rebounding following injury woes. 

The 2013 All-Star missed the entirety of the 2014 season after he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, but he rebounded in 2015 by going 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 188 strikeouts and 37 walks over the course of 29 starts. 

Based on that precedent and the steady rate at which Harvey has seemingly recovered over the past five months, it won’t be a surprise if he returns to the mound and assumes dominant form once again for a Mets team that will have its eyes on reclaiming the NL East crown. 

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Adam Eaton for Lucas Giolito ‘Wow’ Trade Could Come Back to Haunt Nationals

The Washington Nationals were quickly turning into the bridesmaids of the 2016 MLB offseason, and not in the charming, Kristen Wiig sense of the word.

Washington lost the bidding for closer Mark Melancon, who signed with the San Francisco Giants. They whiffed on Chris Sale, who landed on the Boston Red Sox. They came up short in an 11th-hour push to get All-Star reliever Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals, with Davis going to the defending champion Chicago Cubs, per Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com.

Now, at last, the Nats have a trade in place: They’re sending three pitching prospects—Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning—to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton, per Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, it feels like a deal born of desperation—and one that could come back to haunt them sooner than later.

Giolito is the shiniest prize in the package headed to the South Side. The tall, 22-year-old right-hander is the No. 1 pitching prospect in the game, per MLB.com, and projects as a frontline starter who could be a part of Chicago’s rotation in 2017 after making his big league debut last season.

That alone would have been a steep price to pay. But Washington gilded the lily with Lopez, the No. 8 pitching prospect in baseball, and Dunning, the Nats’ first-round pick from this past summer’s amateur draft.

That’s three top-shelf arms to add to the White Sox’s growing haul of blue chips, which also includes the game’s top position prospect, Yoan Moncada, acquired from the Red Sox in the Sale trade.

Like Giolito, the 22-year-old Lopez could be a part of the Sox’s 2017 rotation. Lopez hasn’t generated as much buzz as Giolito, but he posted more strikeouts per nine innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season (10.4 to 9.1) and fewer walks per nine (2.9 to 3.4) before arriving to The Show and making an immediate impression. 

“It’s never easy to let go of your prospects,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters. “You feel like a proud daddy when they get to the big leagues.”

Taken in isolation, Eaton is a fine pickup. At 28 years old, he’s in the midst of his prime. He posted a robust .284/.362/.428 slash line last season with 14 home runs, 14 stolen bases and nine triples.

He was also the best defensive right fielder in either league, posting 22 defensive runs saved and a 23.1 ultimate zone rating, per FanGraphs

He’s locked into a Black Friday-esque contract that will pay him $18.4 million over the next three seasons, with a pair of club options that could extend the deal to a total of $38.4 million over five years. Needless to say, that’s below market rate.

Once you add some context, though, this gets worse for Washington.

A large share of Eaton’s value is tied to his defense. While he’s elite in right field, the Nats already have a guy there by the name of Bryce Harper (more on him in a moment).

Almost surely, the plan is to slide Eaton to center field and move speedy Rookie of the Year runner-up Trea Turner to shortstop.

The bad news? As a center fielder, Eaton owns a career minus-8 DRS and minus-21 UZR. You don’t need to know a defensive metric from a rosin bag to understand that isn’t good.

Even Eaton’s eminently affordable deal is less special on closer inspection. Getting him on the cheap for the next few seasons will be nice, but by the time his options kick in, he’ll be on the wrong side of 30. Players like him—guys who rely on their legs and have a tendency to collide with walls—don’t always age well.

That likewise puts a wet blanket on the idea of Eaton taking over in right field when Harper hits free agency after the 2018 season. It’s technically on the table, but will he still wield an above-average glove at that point?

Again, Eaton will provide value for Washington. The more you turn it around, though, the more this looks, walks and quacks like an overpay.

That seemed to be Harper’s initial reaction, if you want to read meaning into a one-word tweet:

To be fair, Harper tossed out congratulatory remarks a scant 14 minutes later: 

Maybe they were sincere; maybe it was damage control. We’ll likely never know. We’ll also never know if the Nationals could have gotten flawed-but-intriguing Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, whom they were widely rumored to be chasing, for less.

Here’s something we do know: An unnamed Nats player texted Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in a state of disbelief:

Rosenthal’s analysis is spot-on. The Nationals need a replacement for Melancon. Their options are dwindling. And they just spent an extra-large portion of their trade capital on a great defensive right fielder so they can stick him in center field, where he’s not so great. 

Maybe Giolito, Lopez and Dunning will all flame out. They wouldn’t be the first touted prospects to do so. Maybe Eaton’s high-energy style will be the missing ingredient that gets the Nationals over the hump after a string of disappointing postseason exits.

At the moment, though, this marriage appears to have come at far too high a cost for Washington.

Sometimes, it’s better to be the bridesmaid.


All statistics and contract information courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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A.J. Ellis to Marlins: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Veteran catcher A.J. Ellis is off to Florida as he signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.   

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball later confirmed Olney’s report. 

Ellis spent eight-plus season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, mostly as a reserve catcher and pinch hitter but also as a team leader and confidant for ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

But in August of the 2016 season, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had spent 11 seasons in the city of brotherly love. 

While Ellis only batted .194 with the Dodgers last season, his loss was tough to take, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times:

But with free agency looming this winter, his production would have made it questionable for the Dodgers to bring him back in 2017, especially if he were looking for the same kind of money while he was playing under a one-year, $4.5 million deal, per Spotrac

In 11 games with the Phillies to end the 2016 season, Ellis batted .313 with a home run and nine RBI on a team that is still in the process of rebuilding toward contending in the National League East. 

Now with his third different team in two years, Ellis is expected to come off the bench behind J.T. Realmuto. 

The 25-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in 2016, batting .303 with 11 home runs, 12 doubles, 48 RBI and a surprising 13 stolen bases. 

His defensive stats were just as solid, as he ranked first among all catchers in assists and tied for fourth with 28 caught potential base stealers.

Realmuto, though, will be working with some new names in the pitching staff as the Marlins brought on Edinson Volquez at the end of November as well as signing starter Jeff Locke on Wednesday, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal

While Ellis won’t provide much on offense, as a veteran presence, he can help Realmuto get accustomed to a new-look rotation and provide much-needed relief when the developing star is in need of a day off. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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Bryce Harper Contract: Latest News, Rumors on OF’s Negotiations with Nationals

Although Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper is under team control for the next two seasons, speculation is already running rampant as to his future in the nation’s capital beyond the 2018 campaign. 

Continue for updates.

Latest on Negotiations Between Harper, Nationals

Monday, Dec. 5

On Monday, USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reported Harper is looking to get a deal for 10-plus years worth more than $400 million—terms the Nationals are unwilling to meet at this stage.

Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, refuted the report, per Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan: “I have had no discussions with the Nationals regarding Harp and a long-term contract.”

Harper’s request for a contract totaling over $400 million wouldn’t be all that surprising. An MLB star is bound to cross that threshold sooner or later after Giancarlo Stanton re-signed with the Miami Marlins for $325 million over 13 years in 2014.

Harper, who turns 26 in two years, will be in the prime of his career, thus sitting in a position to demand one of the richest deals in baseball history, whether it’s with the Nationals or another team.

By his standards, Harper is coming off a disappointing 2016. A year after winning the National League‘s MVP award, he batted .243 with 24 home runs and 86 RBI. His slugging percentage dropped from .649 in 2015 to .441.

Despite his issues at the plate, Harper would likely be able to name his price in free agency should he rebound in 2017 and 2018.

Nationals principal owner Ted Lerner has shown a willingness to spend to make the team a World Series contender. Washington sent a message when it signed Jayson Werth for seven years and $126 million in 2010, and it has subsequently handed out contracts worth a combined $485 million to Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman.

Still, re-signing Harper will be a major challenge for the Nationals. He has little incentive to agree on an extension before hitting free agency, and should he hit the open market, there’s no telling how high his price tag could climb.

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Joaquin Benoit to Phillies: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

The Philadelphia Phillies took a big step toward shoring up their bullpen with the addition of Joaquin Benoit on Monday. 

According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, the 39-year-old reliever signed with the club after Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported the two sides were close Sunday night.

Benoit had two very different seasons in 2016, struggling to the tune of a 5.18 ERA with the Seattle Mariners before eventually being traded at the deadline. He was lights out with the Toronto Blue Jays, however, allowing just one run in 23.2 innings. 

Unfortunately, the right-handed pitcher tore his calf attempting to run in from the bullpen in a late-season, bench-clearing brawl. He missed the last week of the regular season and the entire postseason, unable to help the Blue Jays in their eventual loss in the American League Championship Series.

“It’s a big loss, no doubt about it,” manager John Gibbons said at the time of the injury, per ESPN.com. “He’s been so good.”

According to sports broadcaster Hazel Mae (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet), he was off crutches and throwing off flat ground by mid-October, so the issue shouldn’t be a concern going forward.

Assuming he is healthy, Philadelphia should get a big contribution from one of the more consistent relievers in the league. Even with his struggles in Seattle, Benoit has finished the season with a sub-3.00 ERA in six of the last seven seasons and had over 50 strikeouts each year.

The pitcher has spent over 15 years in the major leagues with six different organizations, accumulating 57 wins, 51 saves and a 3.79 ERA.

Benoit could be a major boost for a team that finished with the third-highest bullpen ERA in 2016 at 5.05.

While he is getting up there in age, Benoit has shown he can still be an effective reliever and should make an impact right away with his new team.

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Terry Ryan Hired as Phillies Special Assignment Scout: Latest Details, Reaction

Terry Ryan needed only five months to find a new job, with the Philadelphia Phillies hiring the former general manager as a special assignment scout. 

The Phillies announced Ryan’s hiring in a press release on their official website. 

“I have known Terry for more than a decade and have enormous respect for all that he accomplished during his tenure with the Twins,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in the release. “Terry’s work ethic, loyalty and track record as a talent evaluator are simply unparalleled in our game.”

Ryan previously worked with the Minnesota Twins, serving 19 years as general manager in two different stints from 1994 to 2007 and 2012 to 2016. He helped lead the franchise to four American League Central titles between 2002 and 2006, including an appearance in the American League Championship Series in 2002. 

The Twins became one of the American League’s worst teams since 2011, losing at least 92 games five times in the previous six seasons. The team fired Ryan in July due to a reported disagreement with owner Jim Pohlad over how to go about improving the club, per Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.

The role of a special assignment scout can vary depending on the team. Typically, he will be used as one of the last channels of communication to a general manager before the GM decides to make a talent acquisition. 

Even though things fell apart with the Twins, Ryan did oversee a front office that led to the franchise having the best farm system in MLB before the 2014 season, with talent like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano among the top prospects. 

The Phillies are still in rebuilding mode with a promising farm system that will likely start to pay dividends as soon as 2017. Adding another sharp scouting mind to the mix like Ryan will ensure the talent pipeline in Philadelphia continues to stay strong. 

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Curtis Granderson Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation Surrounding Mets OF

New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson is generating trade interest as the organization works to clear out an outfield logjam during the offseason.

Continue for updates.

Orioles Reportedly Have Interest in Granderson

Thursday, Dec. 1

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported the Baltimore Orioles “seem to have interest” in Granderson but “not really” Jay Bruce.

Mets Open to Trading Granderson for Right Price

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Marc Carig of Newsday reported Wednesday that Granderson is the asset generating the most discussion among other teams after speculation that Bruce would be the one moved. He noted the Mets are open to dealing either player depending on the return package.

Cespedes Deal Could Spell End of Granderson in New York

New York reached an agreement to re-sign prized free agent Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday. Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that it’s a four-year, $110 million deal that comes with a full no-trade clause and that it will be officially announced once he completes a physical.

While it’s a massive step toward a successful offseason for the 2015 National League champions, it also leaves an overabundance of outfielders for three spots. Along with Cespedes, the Mets also have Granderson, Bruce, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares.

Given the massive contract handed out Tuesday, it’s no surprise the front office would want to move one of the other high-priced options to create some financial wiggle room.

Spotrac noted that Granderson is set to make $15 million in 2017 and that Bruce is pegged at $13 million. Both players will also be playing the final years of their current deals.

Granderson is coming off another solid season in New York. The 35-year-old slugger smacked 30 home runs in 150 games to go along with a .335 on-base percentage and 88 runs scored. He’s no longer the speed threat he was in his prime, but he’s become a reliable power producer.

Maria Guardado of NJ.com passed along comments the veteran made earlier in November about the possibility of getting traded before next season.

“No reason to think about it,” Granderson said. “I just got to go ahead and take it one day at a time. I’ve been in rumors before that never panned out, so unless something absolutely happens, there’s no reason to think about it.”

Heyman reported the Toronto Blue Jays are one possible landing spot if the outfielder does end up getting moved:

The Mets don’t have a ton of areas that they need to improve, but they could still look to upgrade at catcher, where Travis d’Arnaud is the projected starter, and in the bullpen.

Perhaps a proven reliever and a mid-range prospect or two could get the Granderson deal done while helping save the team some money.


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Would Chris Sale Blockbuster Make Nationals a Real Threat to Cubs Reign?

The Chicago Cubs are the team to beat in the National League. That was true before they busted their 108-year championship drought and it’s certainly true now.

Here’s the thing about being the team to beat, though: Everyone wants to beat you.

Like, say, the Washington Nationals.

The Nats are the defending NL East champs. They pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers to five games in the division series, despite losing All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos and co-ace Stephen Strasburg to injury. They’re within shouting distance of Senior Circuit supremacy.

Here’s an intriguing thought exercise: Would a trade for Chicago White Sox stud Chris Sale put them in position to threaten the Cubs’ nascent reign?

The Nats have kicked the tires on Sale, per USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale. Why not? With a comically weak free-agent class, he could be the winter’s biggest prize if he’s moved.

A 27-year-old five-time All-Star, Sale has eclipsed 200 strikeouts in each of the last four seasons and thrown more than 200 innings in three of them. He’s averaged 10.04 strikeouts per nine innings since his debut in 2010, the sixth-highest total among active pitchers. 

He’s under contract for the next three seasons, for $12 million in 2017, a $12.5 million team option in 2018 and a $13.5 million team option in 2019, a relative bargain.

He’ll also cost a lot in trade, as we’ll get into shortly. For now, back to the original question: Could adding Sale push Washington past Chicago?

He’d join a rotation already fronted by NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and Strasburg, forming a formidable top three.

Here, let’s stack their 2016 stats next to each other for fun:

Add Tanner Roark (16-10, 2.83 ERA, 210 innings, 172 strikeouts) and you’d be looking at one of the deepest, most dangerous rotations in the game.

The Cubs have a strong starting corps of their own. Chicago’s top four starters—Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey—combined for 15.7 WAR by FanGraphs‘ measure

Marry Sale’s 2016 WAR to the totals for Scherzer, Strasburg and Roark, however, and you get an even more robust 17.8.

The Nationals’ bullpen ranked second in the NL with a 3.37 ERA last season, while the Cubs’ relief corps ranked fourth with a 3.56 mark. Both teams could lose the elite closers they acquired at the trade deadline—Mark Melancon from the Nationals and Aroldis Chapman from the Cubs.

The Nationals could also lose their backstop and a key offensive cog with Ramos on the market. The Cubs, likewise, need to re-sign or replace center fielder and leadoff man Dexter Fowler, which they may have done by signing Jon Jay to a one-year, $8 million pact, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.

The Cubs’ offensive core is second to none, with NL MVP Kris Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Addison Russell and second baseman/breakout postseason star Javier Baez leading a group that ranked second in the NL in runs (808) and OPS (.772).

The Nats counter with 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper, second baseman Daniel Murphy and center fielder/speedy breakout rookie Trea Turner. They also hit more home runs than the Cubs in 2016 (203 to 199) and stole more bases (121 to 66). 

The chasm isn’t that wide, in other words. One seismic move could edge Washington over the top. 

The same could be said for other NL contenders, including the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers need starting pitching and a bat or two, though they may be shackled by financial constraints. The Giants need to add some thump to their lineup and bolster a bullpen that was their undoing last season.

The New York Mets, meanwhile, made the biggest move of the offseason thus far, re-upping outfielder Yoenis Cespedes for four years and $110 million, per Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan

That’s another reason for the Nats to be aggressive. The Mets, recall, won the division and the NL pennant in 2015 and could be a formidable opponent in 2017 if their rotation bounces back to health.

What would Washington have to surrender for Sale? The short answer: a ton.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal opined, correctly, that it’s “virtually impossible to imagine the Nationals parting with Turner.”

However, Rosenthal added, “they could entice the White Sox with others from their deep, talented system. Start with right-handers Reynaldo Lopez and Erick Fedde and outfielder Victor Robles, and take it from there.”

Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter ranked Robles, Lopez and Fedde the Nats‘ No. 2, 3 and 4 prospects, respectively. They all rank among the game’s top 100 prospects, per MLB.com—Robles at No. 10, Lopez at No. 37 and Fedde at No. 75. 

That package would sting, and it might not be enough. The Sox could hold out for Turner, or right-hander and No. 1 prospect Lucas Giolito.

This is the time for the Nats to get bold, though. They’ve won three division titles in five years but never advanced to the National League Championship Series, let alone the big October dance.

Close your eyes and picture that rotation again: Scherzer, Sale, Strasburg and Roark.

“Imagine that in the playoffs,” an unnamed executive said, per Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. “And Sale being there would completely take the pressure off Strasburg.”

That’s a salient point. Talented as Strasburg is, he’s got a checkered injury history. With Sale in the fold, he could shine as the best No. 3 starter in the game.

The Cubs are the team to beat in the NL, and a safe bet to become baseball’s first repeat champions since the 2000 New York Yankees.

The Nationals have a chance to beat them, however, and Sale could be their cudgel. 

He’d be an expensive one. He’d also be worth it.


All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Yoenis Cespedes’ $110M Free-Agent Deal a Win-Win for Him, New York Mets

Since Yoenis Cespedes and the New York Mets seem so right for one another, it’s fitting they would agree to a contract that’s so right for one another.

A reunion between Cespedes and the Mets was the big news coming off the hot stove Tuesday.

The 31-year-old outfielder became a free agent when he opted out of a three-year, $75 million contract in early November, which prompted questions about whether he would find a better deal elsewhere. Instead, he found a better deal at the same place he’s called home since the 2015 trade deadline.

After Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the deal was done, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports spilled the details:

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Cespedes also got full no-trade protection.

And so, the 2016-17 MLB offseason recorded its first major signing. Cespedes‘ deal is worth more than twice the $52 million Josh Reddick got from the Houston Astros in his own four-year contract. It’s appropriate Cespedes was the one to do the deed, as he was widely considered the best free agent available this winter.

The bigger surprise was that the Mets signed Cespedes. They always loomed as the best fit for him, but whether they could make the financials work was a big question from the beginning.

It became an even bigger question when Mike Puma of the New York Post ran out this report last week:

Within the industry, there is a growing sense the star outfielder will command a five-year deal, which would leave the Mets facing a major decision on their immediate future.

As it stands, the Mets are likely committed to signing the 31-year-old if a four-year contract in the $100 million-to-$110 million neighborhood can be hammered out, according to an industry source, but there is less clarity on the matter when an additional year — which could push the value of a deal beyond $130 million — is considered.

A deal in that neighborhood was hardly out of the question. For instance, Tim Dierkes, Steve Adams and Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors projected Cespedes would find a five-year, $125 million contract.

The fact that the Mets brought him back for one fewer year and for significantly less guaranteed money was a big win for them. And at $27.5 million per season, they’ll pay him the rough equivalent of the salary they just fit onto their payroll in 2016.

And just as important, they retained a hugely important part of their lineup.

Cespedes has done nothing but mash for the Mets since they acquired him from the Detroit Tigers in July 2015. He OPS’d .942 with 17 home runs over the last two months of that season and returned to OPS .884 with 31 homers in 2016.

Cespedes‘ production has gone back and forth between propelling the Mets offense to greatness and saving it from utter ruin. Without him in 2015, New York would not have caught fire like it did. Without him in 2016, an even worse fate than finishing tied for 11th in the National League in runs would have been in store.

The reality that this arrangement will continue at a reasonable rate for four more years makes it easier for the Mets to swallow the downsides that are part of living with Cespedes. Those include his occasional defensive lapses and the aches and pains that have limited him to under 140 games in three of his five major league seasons.

Of course, his status as an easily marketable superstar is another bonus that makes him worth the occasional annoyances. Cespedes is media-shy, but his fondness for long dingers and shiny objects gives him a larger-than-life persona that’s perfect for baseball’s biggest media market.

But lest anyone think Cespedes did the Mets a favor by agreeing to a possibly below-market deal, let’s pump the brakes for a second.

Neither the years nor the dollars jump off the page relative to past free-agent contracts, but the average annual value of Cespedes‘ deal is no joke. Here’s Rosenthal putting it in perspective:

So to that extent, Cespedes‘ new contract makes him one of the highest-paid players in baseball history. And in the long run, the relatively short length of it could ensure there’s more where that came from.

Though Cespedes is still an excellent athlete who runs well and throws as mightily as any outfielder, his main attraction is his power. It was trending down for a while there, but he’s since turned into one of the best mashers in baseball. Over the last two seasons, he ranked 12th among qualified hitters in ISO (isolated power) with a mark of .251.

Cespedes has always had the swing path to get to this point, as he’s generally hit more fly balls than ground balls. What he needed to start doing was applying his tremendous raw power more consistently.

His hard-contact percentages reveal he’s done just that:

  • 2012: 33.0%
  • 2013: 31.6%
  • 2014: 31.1%
  • 2015: 35.8%
  • 2016: 39.3%

Cespedes added yet another layer to his slugging transformation in 2016: For the first time in his career, he walked more often than the average hitter.

Corinne Landrey of FanGraphs looked at the precedent for this last week and came away unconvinced that this new habit has guaranteed lasting power. However, it might. Cespedes did improve his plate discipline, after all, and his power is certainly a reason for pitchers to be careful with him.

If he remains a disciplined power hitter over the next four seasons, there should be a market for him in his next dance with free agency—even if his other skills have eroded between the ages of 31 and 35. As much as teams like young, well-rounded players, they’ve shown they’re willing to shower money on older, one-dimensional players so long as that one dimension is a dangerous bat.

To wit, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz and Victor Martinez each got about $15 million per season in a multiyear contract. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista should do the same this winter.

If Cespedes follows in their footsteps, his new contract will be just as easy to appreciate then as it is now. Maybe he could have found a bigger deal, but he settled for the better deal.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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