At the end of the four-year, $110 million contract he signed with the New York Mets, Yoenis Céspedes was more punchline than Mets’ lineup punch.
Céspedes played in only eight games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season before opting out altogether. He missed all of the 2019 season recovering from surgery on both heels, but had a reported encounter with a wild boar on his Florida ranch and fractured his ankle as a result. That bizarre episode caused the Cuban slugging outfielder to forfeit a sizable chunk of his salary.
After signing his mega-deal with the Mets, Céspedes played in a combined 119 games over the 2017 and ‘18 seasons due to various injuries and ailments, and the Mets missed the postseason both years. There were even “bad optics” headlines Céspedes generated for his dalliances on the golf links.
But even though Céspedes is 37, and hasn’t played in the majors since that aborted 2020 effort, his former Mets manager Terry Collins says all 30 MLB teams — especially the Mets and their potential need for another bat after the Carlos Correa deal collapsed — should consider the free agent Céspedes as a 2023 roster fill-in.
“Hey, a guy with his ability, why wouldn’t you just look into it?” Collins asks.
Céspedes was playing for the Dominican Winter League team Águilas Cibaeñas until a leg injury sidelined him for the remainder of the 2022-23 winter ball season. He will reportedly play for the Cuban team in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Collins was the Mets manager in 2015 when Céspedes arrived at the trade deadline, one of then general manager Sandy Alderson’s signature moves. Céspedes played in 57 regular season games for the Mets after the trade with the Detroit Tigers and the righty-hitting Céspedes hit .287 with 17 homers — part of a 66-hit total — in that stretch. But the Mets fell to the Royals in five games in the World Series, and Céspedes was a virtual ghost at the plate, hitting .150 with six strikeouts.
Still, all these years later, Collins thinks the ability and tools are still there despite Céspedes approaching dinosaur status in baseball-playing years.
“I always told (Cespedes), there’s no reason why he couldn’t hit .320,” says Collins. “He can hit the ball to right field. All the shifts that they’re putting on against him, if he wanted to, he could have just shot balls to right field all day long. Really talented. Great arm. He didn’t show it off a lot, but he could fly.”
In a recent video of Céspedes playing for Águilas, he demonstrated his ability to still hit for power, going 4-for-4 with a homer and double. Even in a designated hitter role only, Collins says Céspedes could fit right in with the Mets, or any club in either league.
“He was a Met and he played great for the Mets. I don’t know where Yo stands today on whether he would come back to New York,” says Collins. “(The Mets) are sitting here the other day looking for a fourth outfielder, a guy that can DH. I know Ces enough to know – let me tell you something, if there’s a guy who can be the Comeback Player of the Year, it could be him. He’s that talented of an athlete.”
Collins says he keeps in touch with Céspedes periodically and even hit a Port St. Lucie golf course with the slugger prior to Céspedes leaving for the Dominican to play for Águilas.
“I don’t know all the other factors involved. It’s always easy to say, ‘Oh yeah, go get the guy.’ You don’t know what the agent wants, you don’t know what he wants,” says Collins. “Or if a person in the organization says, ‘As far as we’re concerned, he’s burned his bridges here.’ I don’t know any of that stuff.”
“But just on talent alone, I think Yoenis Céspedes is somebody that should be looked at, for sure,” adds Collins. “By any team. If you broke him down, tool by tool, you’re not gonna find other guys in the league that have the same tools as this guy. He can run, he can throw, he can hit for power.
“Why wouldn’t you check and see?”