Even in the shortest off-season for the Mets in 15 years, it can be long enough for it to take some unexpected twists and turns.
As markets develop, opportunities both arises and collapse. Players become available as fast as they get signed or traded.
But throughout all of these twists and turns, the needs for a team typically remain while the markets get more and more defined and in the case of 2015, overvalued.
The Mets have identified their outfield as a box to check this winter. They’ve been very open about attempting to find a left-handed complement to Juan Lagares to form a platoon, or simply finding a replacement altogether.
But on Friday, the Mets got one of those off-season twists. They drew a badly needed ace to give them the flush they needed at this winter’s poker table.
Michael Cuddyer retired, and the Mets will be able to recoup a large portion of the $12.5 million owed to the 36-year-old outfielder in the final year of his contract.
The Mets have already signed Asdrubal Cabrera to a lucrative deal, have traded Jon Niese and his $9 million contract for Neil Walker and his projected $9-11 million contract.
The Mets infield is deeper, more versatile, and has more power, all at a cost of $11-12 million, at worst.
But Cuddyer’s salary can now be subtracted. Ok, let’s add a $2.5 million parting gift or injury compensation fee, and their committed payroll is $94 million for 2016 on the high end, with their entire infield addressed from top to bottom.
Indeed, the Mets drew that ace with Cuddyer’s retirement. They now have a royal flush. They’re ready to collapse the table.
And when that hand has been attained, the opportunity to win cannot be surrendered at all costs.
In other words, the Mets are in position to sign Yoenis Cespedes.
And sign him they should.
Now, the Mets should remain prudent in their approach with Cespedes, especially as his market is only now going to become defined. He has been open about wanting a six-year deal, and the Mets – as should most teams – should be hesitant to offer a 30-year-old such a contract in an inflated free agent market.
But when a team stumbles upon a treasure chest, it would be foolish to leave it for someone else to find.
The Mets should now be in the Cespedes sweepstakes.
Yes, Cespedes comes with some issues. His age can be problematic for a long-term deal. He would be asked to play center field here, at least until Curtis Granderson is a free agent after the 2017 season, and while he’s good there, his value defensively is not maximized there.
He is also anything but the kind of player the Mets covet with his free swinging, impatient approach to hitting. He can be just as frustrating with his wild swinging at pitches out of the zone as he can be exciting with his mega-power to all fields, and his 30+ home run potential.
He is also coming off the best season of his career at a time when free agent prices are going through the roof. And what he did for the Mets in August and September by hitting 17 home runs in 57 games to carry the Mets into the playoffs was as memorable as it was unlikely to happen again.
The Mets also need to invest resources into their bullpen, and retain Bartolo Colon or find a comparable starting pitcher willing to go to the bullpen in the second half.
But there is no question Cespedes is a game changer and a star, and the star the Mets need to restore to their pursuit of a World Championship in 2016. Even if Cespedes is 80 percent of what he was in 2015 next season, the Mets are in a far better place.
And they know Cespedes’ star can shine in New York, and they know he would love to stay here as well.
“We wouldn’t have gotten to the World Series without Cespedes,” Sandy Alderson said in early November.
They have the ace card to get it done. And like every poker player who pulls the most elusive hand in the game, it’s time to use that card.
Especially if the Mets are sensing this is their opportunity to win it all.