Mets might have acquired Justin Upton instead of Yoenis Cespedes, but Padres backed out
As the trade deadline approached on July 31, the Mets still found themselves without the dynamic game changer they badly needed, even up until 3:30 PM ET, 30 minutes before the deadline.
With about 20 minutes to go before the deadline, the Mets were able to close a deal with the Tigers which would net them Yoenis Cespedes in exchange for pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa.
But it could have been vastly different in a short span of time, according to John Harper of the Daily News.
A club source told Harper the Mets were also deep in negotiations with the Padres to acquire OF Justin Upton, and they felt confident they’d get the deal done before the Padres eventually backed out and retained Upton, for which they will receive draft compensation when they make him a qualifying offer he is expected to reject.
The source told Harper the Mets felt comfortable acquiring either Cespedes or Upton.
Upton, who will be a free agent after the season, has produced better results in the month of August after an inconsistent season. He’s hit .299/.429/.507 with six doubles, a triple and a home run in 84 plate appearances this month.
Cespedes, of course has been better. He hit three home runs on Friday night alone, hitting .318/.341/.565 with six doubles and five home runs in 88 plate appearances this month.
As good as Upton is, Cespedes is just the better overall player. He’s a better and more consistent hitter, and he’s a superior outfielder as well.
Both players were risky acquisitions, as both can be free agents and their sign-ability is questionable at best for the Mets at the conclusion of the season. Both are young, right-handed power hitters, assets which are hard to find in free agency in this day and age. They would be foolish not to take the bidding at least to the winter meetings in Nashville come December.
For the Mets and Cespedes, it is even more complicated. They essentially have to come to terms on an agreement no later than five days after the World Series concludes. If they don’t, the Mets are contractually obligated to release Cespedes, after which the Mets cannot sign him again until May 15 (a released player cannot be signed to a new contract by his former team until that date).
So the pressure will be on, and it may not be realistic for the Mets to sign him no matter what.
But if the Mets were going to take a high stakes gamble in a player as they ultimately did to go for it all in 2015, they would have been wise to prioritize Cespedes anyway.
Fortunately, the choice became academic, and quite serendipitously based on the results.