Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets. $111.7 million.
Totally worth it.
OK, this won’t be the most analytical, 400-level-Econ-class column ever written. This one comes partly from the heart, partly from the contrarian impulses that course through my veins. Yet with the coronavirus shutdown further limiting, if not fully ending, both Cespedes’ time in a Mets uniform and his income from this beleaguered organization, why not get a head start on an assessment of one of the most dynamic acquisitions — and derided financial commitments in the franchise’s colorful history?
The essence of the argument: Like Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger in “Jerry Maguire,” Cespedes and the Mets completed each other, or at least came close to doing so, at a critical time for both. The fruits of that extended fling mitigated the inevitable turbulence from the marriage.
Or, as Jake Mintz put it in a recent telephone interview: “Before [Cespedes] was traded to the Mets, we were not ingrained in the culture of the Mets and the history of all the crazy stuff that has happened to the Mets. When Yoenis joined the circus and has contributed to the circus, you think, ‘Maybe there is something about this team that is amplifying all of this.’”
If you’re wondering who the heck Jake Mintz is, he is the co-founder, along with Jordan Shusterman (hence Mintz’s reference to “We”) of Cespedes Family BBQ, a popular Twitter feed (and former blog) that discusses all things baseball. The high school chums from the Washington, D.C. area also can be seen on “Change Up” on DAZN — and get their handle from the showcase video Cespedes posted when he first defected from Cuba in 2012. That video, the original version of which appears to be gone from the internet, displayed Cespedes’ strength and athleticism and concluded with him roasting a pig over an open spit … which of course brings to mind last year’s incident with a wild boar on his Florida ranch that caused serious injuries to both his right ankle and his wallet.
“It really brings things full circle in the best possible way,” Mintz said.
“The pig got revenge,” Shusterman added.
The pig (or boar — same thing, right?) took $29.6 million of guaranteed money away from Cespedes, a historic haircut for a baseball player, and that’s how you get to $111.4 million for Cespedes’ estimated Mets earnings: $3.8 million in 2015 upon arriving from Detroit in a trade, $27.5 million in 2016 and $80.4 million for his four-year contract that originally was $110 million. The final tally could drop to as low as $105.7 million if this season gets wiped out, as veteran players will draw about $300,000 each from the $170 million lump sum that teams gave the Players Association in late March. It also could increase to as high as $125.4 million if we have a season and Cespedes stays healthy and plays a lot, although a shorter-than-normal schedule would block some incentive clauses from being reached.
So how much bang have the Mets received from their Cespedes bucks to date? Consider FanGraphs’ “Dollars” metric, which calculates how much a player would receive on the theoretical open market in return for his production.
2015: $15.4 million
2016: $29.9 million
2017: $13.1 million
2018: $7.3 million
That’s $65.7 million, considerably short of what the Mets spent on Cespedes. Then consider that the Mets’ insurance policy on Cespedes’ contract gave them some relief when he experienced his dual heel injuries; let’s conservatively ballpark that at $5 million, as the boar mishap further complicates an already labyrinthine guesstimation process.
Then we get into the meat of this argument: How much money have the Mets banked from having Cespedes in their uniform? Would they have made the World Series in 2015 and the National League wild-card game in 2016 without him? How many Cespedes shirseys and other assorted memorabilia have they sold? It’s worth noting, too, that whenever Cespedes has been healthy enough to play, he has produced. Never has he served as an albatross on the lineup, as opposed to the payroll.
They say that flags fly forever, and Cespedes and the Mets earned one of those, if not the biggest one, in ’15. Memories can stay aloft pretty long, too.
“I was at Citi Field the weekend after he got traded [to the Mets],” Mintz said. “The energy of those first couple of months was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced with a player and a team. Obviously what has happened since has dampened that, but don’t cry that it’s over. Smile that it happened.”
Maybe it’s not entirely over yet for Mintz to pull out his last sentiment, “just a thing middle-schoolers say when their summer camp experience is over,” he explained. Regardless, the verdict is in: The Mets have done plenty wrong in their history. Obtaining and retaining Yoenis Cespedes, in part because of the rough times, still feels so very right.
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