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Yoenis Cespedes: ‘This team is way better than the team we had in 2015’

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Before the start of the regular season, we usually get a shocking proclamation or two from players across the sport. This year, it’s Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Per Tim Britton of The Athletic, Cespedes said, “This team is way better than the team we had in 2015.”

The 2015 Mets, of course, made it all the way to the World Series where they lost in five games to the Royals. Cespedes joined the club at the trade deadline when the Mets sent Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa to the Tigers. Cespedes hit 17 home runs and knocked in 44 runs in his two months with the Mets through the end of the regular season. But that club not only had Cespedes, but a healthy and elite Matt Harvey. Jacob deGrom followed up his Rookie of the Year Award-winning 2014 campaign with an even better 2015. Noah Syndergaard impressed as a rookie. Closer Jeurys Familia had the best season of his career. Lucas Duda had another terrific offensive season. Michael Conforto was highly productive as a rookie.

Overall, the 2015 squad scored 683 runs and allowed 613. Baseball Prospectus is projecting the 2018 Mets to score 722 runs and allow 727. While the 2015 squad had some weaknesses, they were few and far between. The Mets are notably weak at first base this year with Adrian Gonzalez, potentially in the final year of his career. Amed Rosario is still an unknown after a weak debut last season. The catching unit of Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki is below average. The starting rotation is among the most fragile in baseball.

I appreciate the motivation behind Cespedes saying what he said. He wants to energize his teammates, give them confidence going into a new season. But objectively, this team has far more negatives than the 2015 team did. That’s why in my 2018 preview I predicted them to go 79-83 and finish in third place. Baseball Prospectus is expecting an 80-82 finish while FanGraphs is putting them at 81-81.

Oakland Athletics reverse course, will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.