Yoenis Cespedes was a phenomenal signing for the Mets. His signing solidifies the team as a legitimate World Series contender, appeases a fan base hungry for wins in Flushing and re-energizes the atmosphere surrounding the entire franchise. The Mets absolutely made the right move bringing Yo back and improving their team.
That being said, the Internet, including this site, is exploding with commentary heralding Cespedes as the best signing in Mets history. Not to be a Debby-Downer but is Yo even a top 5 Mets signing in the last 20 years?
This may be the perfect storm for signing a top-tier free agent. The Mets are coming off their best season since at least 2000, probably longer, and with the pitching in place, expectations have never been so high. The Amazins’ are in the conversation but until bringing back Number 52 they were clearly a bat short, Yo changes that. He’s an excellent middle of the order hitter, brings spunk and personality to the clubhouse and plays at least one outfield spot exceptionally well (unfortunately not the one he’ll be playing in Citi.) Square peg in a round hole and all aside, he clearly makes this team better. But is he really the best or even one of the best signings the Mets have made?
Yoenis just signed a free agent contract but he was brought to this team via the trade, so his resigning has to be put in context with other players either signed as free agents or brought to NY via trade and only later signed.
Yoenis is a career .271/.319/.486 hitter, he plays solid left field and sub par in center, over 162 games he averages 30 HR and 103 RBI but has only played 150 games twice. Last year was a career year, and he still only hit 35 HR and 105 RBI, this season most likely won’t be as hot as last summer. He’s got 1 Top-10 MVP finish, 1 All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove at a position he won’t be playing. His career has spanned 4 seasons and he has a 15.8 WAR.
Let’s examine some other relatively recent Mets signings:
Mike Piazza: Piazza was acquired via trade from the Marlins in 1998 and re-signed for 7-years the following offseason. Piazza’s slashes for the 4 years (we are looking at 4-year windows because that’s the length of Cespedes’s career) before becoming a Met ranged from .328/.390/.563 to .362/.431/.638. In those years he hit between 32 and 40 HRs and knocked in between 93 and 124 RBIs. Before becoming a Met, Piazza was a 6 time All-Star, had 6 Top-10 MVP finishes, won 6 Silver Sluggers and was the 1993 NL Rookie of the year. In his 4 years prior to playing for the Mets he posted a 26.5 WAR.
Pedro Martinez: Pedro signed a 4-year deal with the Mets in the 2004 offseason. In the previous 4 seasons he posted an ERA between 1.74 and 2.39 and had SO/9 between 9.4 and 12.6. He was already a 6 time All-Star, a 3 time AL Cy Young Award Winner and finished in the top-5 for the AL Cy Young on 4 other occasions. In his 4 years prior to signing with the Mets, he posted a WAR of 25.1.
Carlos Delgado: The Mets traded for Delgado in the 2005 offseason and signed him to a 4-year deal. The 4 years prior Carlos had slashes between .269/.372/.535 and .302/.426/.593. His career 162 game averages were for 38 HRs and 120 RBIs and he played every day. At the point the Mets signed him he had 3 Top-10 MVP finishes, 2 All Star appearances and had won 3 Silver Slugger awards. In the 4 years before being a Met Delgado posted a 16.4 WAR.
Carlos Beltran: The Mets signed Beltran to a 7-year Free Agent contract in 2005. His 4 years prior slashed between .267/367/.501 and .307/.389/.548. He stole between 31-42 bases in those years, hit between 24 and 38 HRs and 100-105 RBIs. He was the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year and had made one All-Star appearance and one Top-10 MVP finish while playing fantastic centerfield. In the 4 years before signing with the Mets Beltran’s WAR was a stellar 21.3.
Johan Santana: Johan was traded to the Mets in the 2007 offseason and inked a 6-year contract with the team. In the prior 4 years Johan had an ERA between 2.61 and 3.33 and had SO/9 between 9.2 and 10.5. He was already a 4 time All Star and 2 time AL Cy Young Award winner, with 3 other Top-5 finishes, 2 Top-10 MVP finishes and a Gold Glove. His WAR for the previous 4 seasons was 27.3.
So, is Yoenis really the Mets best signing ever? After examining some very brief stats it seems he may just have been in the right place at the right time. He is a great player but unlikely the best the Mets have signed. Each of these 5 players has a strong case to have been a better signing then Cespedes, even at the time they signed. The difference is, there was never as much hope in Queens as there is today and the Mets fan base has never been as rabid and excited as we are for the 2016 season.
This does not diminish the signing at all, it was still a great move (albeit perhaps slightly expensive) for Sandy Alderson and the rest of the front office but is this just sticking a great bat on already very good team and not something more than that?
Are we overeating this a little bit in historical context?