The Yoenis Cespedes market and Offseason Fever

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Nothing continues to happen in the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes.

Wait — is it a “sweepstakes” if no one really wants to just go for it and take the prize? I saw people nearly killing one another for a Powerball ticket a couple of weeks ago. The courting of Yoenis Cespedes, in contrast, comes off more like a couple of old ladies saying “no, you go ahead . . . you have it” when there’s only one piece of coffee cake left. They both probably want it, but they’d be totally cool with the other one saving them from themselves and a possibly unnecessary indulgence.

Each day there is some sort of non-news about Cespedes. Two days ago it involved the Padres of all teams “checking in” or “monitoring the situation” or some such nonsense hot stove phrase that escapes me. I know it wasn’t “kicking the tires” as it’s far too late in the offseason for that, but it was damn well short of something as serious as “discussions.”

Mostly it seems like a low-level battle between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets. The Nats apparently have an offer out there, but it’s possibly low or short or else more people would be talking about it. The Mets, slammed all winter for being cheap, are playing it close to the vest. Sandy Alderson said that the Mets are talking with Cespedes’ people. Fred Wilpon simply played dumb. The Yankees are hanging around saying coy little things, probably because it’s fun to mess with the Mets but maybe because they can sense a bargain when one comes along, for better or for worse.

This all feels like offseason fever. The time of the winter when we fixate so much on the couple of players left on the market that we forget that they were not the best players on the market all offseason. That time when we’re so far removed from baseball that we forget some very basic things about baseball. Things like how the Nationals really don’t have a place for Cespedes in their outfield. Things like how the Mets were just as excoriated last winter for being cheap and all they did once the season started was make a key pickup at the deadline, win their division easily and then go to the World Series. Sure, that pickup was Cespedes, but there’s always a way to improve your team once the season begins, especially when it’s a sure bet that 60% of your division is going to stink.

It’s all great sport to see who is going to sign the last big fish left in the free agency pool, but it’s easy to overstate the significance of that fish. I like Cespedes and think he’s a fine player, but he’s not going to single-handedly transform a pennant race (nor did he last year, contrary to what so many people believe). The Mets and Nationals know this, which explains why they’re treating him like that last piece of coffee cake. He’d be nice to have, but it’s easy to see regretting it later.

Really, Phyllis, you go ahead. I’m feeling sort of full.