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Max Rosenfeld

Projecting the Value of Yoenis Cespedes Moving Forward

Rejoice, Mets fans. It’s official: Yoenis Cespedes is returning to New York.

On Tuesday afternoon, Cespedes signed a 4 year, $110 million contract that will make Citi Field his home
through the 2020 season. Cespedes’ deal includes a full no trade clause and gives him the second highest
Average Annual Value of any position player ever, trailing just Miguel Cabrera in terms of money made per
year.

His contract is reflective of the simple fact that his performance the last two seasons has cemented Cespedes
as a bona fide superstar. Cespedes is the rare player that not only embraces the New York spotlight, but seeks
it. Cespedes has played the best baseball of his career the last two seasons.

His monster contract does not come without question marks, however. Many executives around the league
have long speculated that Cespedes would mail it in once he received a long term pay day. There is also the
fear that his diva personality does not mix well with a winning clubhouse culture. In fact, Cespedes did land
himself a stint on the DL following a golf outing with MLB Network’s Kevin Millar last season.

Still, Millar’s MLB Network comrades praised the Mets for the Cespedes signing on Tuesday. Brian Kenny,
infamously known for his fascination with advanced metrics, even recognized that Cespedes brings real star
power to the team.

“I hate to admit it, but there is a spectacle to this guy. There is a spectacle to watching this guy play baseball,”
said Kenny on MLB Now.

The Mets absolutely had to sign Cespedes to capitalize on the current 2-4 year championship window that they
currently hold. The Mets are desperately trying to win while Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey,
Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler are all on the roster.

In fact, this season looks to be the first time ever that the Mets will have all five stud pitchers playing at the
same time. And while this dizzying array of pitching talent makes the Mets an instant contender, the Mets still
need Cespedes to provide an offensive punch. Cespedes is the Mets’ best hitter, baserunner, and defensive
outfielder (sorry Juan Lagares). He is a transcendent talent.

Yet projecting Cespedes’ value moving forward is a difficult task. In an attempt to do so, we must first look back
at the past.

In his first Major League season in 2012, Cespedes posted a 2.9 Wins Above Replacement in 129 games. This
performance is certainly impactful and Cespedes’ WAR would have been even higher if he had been on the
field more often. The problem is that Cespedes has rarely been able to make it through an entire season
healthy.

The following year, Cespedes recorded a 2.4 WAR in 134 games. He hit 26 home runs, but saw his slash line
drop from .292/.356/.505 the year prior to .240/.294/.442.

2014 gave us our first glimpse of an entire Cespedes season, a markedly improved campaign in comparison to
his lackluster 2013 season. Cespedes finished with a 3.3 WAR in 152 games.

In 2015, Cespedes took off. Between the Detroit Tigers and Mets, he recorded a whopping 6.7 WAR in 159
games. Cespedes batted .291/.328/.542 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI’s. Cespedes also won a Gold Glove
award for his fantastic play in left field.

Cespedes maintained his superstar play in 2016 but struggled to fight off the injury bug. He played in only 132
games but hit 31 home runs and posted a 3.2 WAR.

At 31 years old, it’s safe to assume that Cespedes’ difficulty to remain healthy for an entire season will persist.
The Mets are paying for Cespedes through his age 34 season, and while the front end of the deal will surely
benefit both sides, the back end may be underwhelming for the club.

Cespedes already has a thick frame and persistent leg issues, a reason for concern for the Mets. He is also
most valuable when playing left field, a desire he has made abundantly clear to the Mets front office. Cespedes
spent time in center field the last two seasons.

Many around baseball believe that Cespedes’ inflated statistics with the Mets are not a fluke. His increased
plate discipline and improved approach are changes the Mets feel are permanent.

Assuming this is true, Cespedes should be able to produce similar numbers to his 2015 and 2016 seasons in
the next two years. This means the Mets should expect between 28-33 home runs, roughly a .280/.340/.530
slash line, and a WAR between 3.5-6.0 depending on how many games he plays.

If Cespedes undergoes a moderate regression in the final two years of the contract (and this is not guaranteed,
he has proven that he performs very well in contract seasons), he should still be worth about 3.5 Wins Above
Replacement at the back end of the deal.

For the Mets, these are welcomed statistics. Cespedes is a player capable of bringing New York’s National
League club its first World Series title since 1986. If Cespedes can remain on the field, he will be worth every
dollar.

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Max is a student at Saint Joseph's University where he is a Communication Studies major. He is a contributing writer for Baseknock MLB and the host of the Payoff Pitch Podcast, which airs every Tuesday morning.

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