Yoenis Cespedes trade flies in the face of Mets' narrative
By DAN BERNSTEIN
College Contributor Network
Earlier this week New York Mets middle infielder Wilmer Flores, reportedly set to join the Milwaukee Brewers alongside Zack Wheeler in a blockbuster trade for Carlos Gomez, was seen crying on the field during a game after realizing that he had been dealt. That Flores was allowed to continue playing despite advanced trade negotiations was bizarre, and his emotional moment on the field was unprecedented.
But even more than that, the whole thing seemed very Mets.
In the following hours the whole trade fell apart due to disputed medical records, and that too seemed very Mets -- strange, incompetent, sad.
This Mets narrative has been built on bad contracts, bad luck, and bitter disappointment. It's strengthened by the team's second-fiddle status in New York. But like most sports narratives, it chooses to ignore key details. Like how this is the most exciting Mets team since the one that went to the NLCS in 2006, and how well positioned the organization is for the future.
The prevailing Mets sentiment after the Gomez debacle also failed to acknowledge that the team still had time to find a different middle of the order outfield bat before the trade deadline, and the team's eventual deal to land Yoenis Cespedes actually seems like a better trade for the organization.
Let's compare Cespedes and Gomez side-by-side. Both are 29-year-old multi-tool outfielders who excel at the plate and in the field. Cespedes is having his best season at the plate since 2012, hitting .293/.323/.506 in a pitcher friendly ballpark. Meanwhile Gomez is having his worst year since 2011, with a slash line of .262/.328/.423 in a hitter friendly park. Gomez has also declined a bit in the stolen base department, swiping only seven bags thus far after stealing an average of 37 bases over the previous three seasons.
According to Fangraphs, Cespedes has been worth 4.2 WAR (wins over replacement) this season. Gomez has been worth 1.7 WAR, in part because of a hip injury that kept him out for a stretch in June but also because it's been a generally disappointing year for him so far.
Cespedes is the better player right now, but that's not the only factor at play. He's only under contract until the end of the season, while Gomez is on a team friendly deal through next year.
This is why the Mets would have had to give up Wheeler -- a young, major league proven pitcher with ace potential -- along with Flores in the trade for Gomez. The Mets instead parted with pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa to net Cespedes -- a hit to the the farm system, but less of a loss than the reported Gomez deal.
Here's the thing: the Mets shouldn't have a problem with Cespedes leaving at the end of the season. Top outfield prospects Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto could easily start 2016 in the major leagues, and there are outfielders that can be acquired in free agency if needed. With so many cost controlled studs, the Mets can afford to pursue Justin Upton or Jason Heyward in the offseason or look to sign a more affordable outfield option like Will Venable.
The Mets traded for a better hitter than Gomez, improving their odds in this season's pennant race. In the process, they kept Zack Wheeler and are therefore better off for the future. At least this week, the Mets have been the opposite of what their narrative suggests.
Dan Bernstein is a freshman at the University of Maryland. He is romantic about the Oakland Coliseum (where he grew up) and Anfield (where he's never been). Follow him on Twitter: @danbernsteinUMD