In re-signing Yoenis Cespedes to a three-year, $75 million contract the Mets sacrificed some defense by committing to use him as their starting center field, but it turns out Cespedes sacrificed something too: He’d rather be playing left field.
Cespedes has made it clear that he’s got zero problem playing center field, but also told Marly Rivera of ESPN.com:
If I had the choice, I would stay in left field. But I will play where the team needs me. If they want me to play center field, I’ll play center field, and I’ll do the best I can. When I came here [to MLB] in 2012, I started playing center field. But that same year I moved to left field. That was a little difficult, but I got used to it already. Now I feel much more comfortable in left field. But my mind, and I’ve always said, if you are a good outfielder, you can play most positions.
New York has Curtis Granderson in right field and Michael Conforto in left field, so Cespedes playing center field most days is a huge part of their roster construction. And having his bat in the lineup at a premium position is a huge part of what makes him such an impact player, even if he’s giving back some runs on defense.
For his career Cespedes has started 382 games in left field, 104 games in center field, and 77 games at designated hitter. This season, assuming the Mets stick with their current plan, Cespedes’ breakdown figures to be about three-fourths center field and one-fourth left field.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.