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Inbox: What's the backup plan for Cespedes?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans
January 24, 2019

You heard it again this week from Brodie Van Wagenen: the Mets are probably done making significant adds to their roster. Of course, that doesn't mean you're out of questions about what the new general manager built this offseason. With Spring Training now less than three weeks away, here's another

You heard it again this week from Brodie Van Wagenen: the Mets are probably done making significant adds to their roster. Of course, that doesn't mean you're out of questions about what the new general manager built this offseason. With Spring Training now less than three weeks away, here's another batch of your queries:
The Mets have to have a contingency plan for the possibility of Yoenis Cespedes not playing at all this year, right?
-- @livingdeadguy via Twitter

Yes, and it's already in place. The addition of Keon Broxton, combined with the team's plan to move Jeff McNeil to the outfield, gives the Mets a depth chart of those two, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares -- enough to cover themselves in the event of an extended Cespedes absence. They also signed a couple of veterans to Minor League deals in Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, giving them additional options. And I haven't even mentioned Tim Tebow. (I'm half kidding.)
Now, I'm not saying it's going to work. The upside of those moves seems relatively low, which could become an issue if Conforto and Nimmo don't build upon their 2018 seasons. Lagares is oft-injured. Broxton has pop, but a ton of swing-and-miss in his game. Davis and Blanco are 38 and 35, respectively.
Everyone would feel a whole lot better if Cespedes were healthy, but he's not. While Van Wagenen has maintained that he expects Cespedes to contribute in 2019, he has steered clear of putting even the vaguest sort of timetable on it. I've yet to hear anyone predict a return sooner than the All-Star break. Worst-case scenario, Cespedes misses the entire year. And what's gone largely unsaid is that no one has any idea what kind of player Cespedes, now 33, will be when he returns. He's appeared in 119 games the past two seasons. It's entirely possible his days as a 35-homer behemoth are done for good.
But this is where we are, for better or for worse. The Mets decided not to pursue A.J. Pollock, who signed with the Dodgers, allocating those resources toward infielder Jed Lowrie instead. Twitter follower @BobbyKleinau was among many this week suggesting a pursuit of Detroit's Nicholas Castellanos; the Mets probably can't part with the type of prospect haul needed for a deal like that. They never seriously pursued Bryce Harper, either. Thus, their contingency plan is what it is: Conforto, Nimmo, and some combination of McNeil, Lagares, Broxton et al. We'll see if it works.
:: Submit a question to the Mets Inbox ::
What combination of outfielders do you think plays the most games together this season?
-- @ZPensakOFFICIAL via Twitter

Interesting follow-up. I believe McNeil's offensive upside is too intriguing for the Mets to ignore, so I'm going to go with him, Conforto and Nimmo, as unlikely as that might seem right now. McNeil's progress in spring will be critical. Still, Lagares and/or Broxton will enter lots of games late as defensive replacements, so in terms of sheer games played, expect at least one of those two to rank high.
What do the Mets expect to see from Jason Vargas, and if he underperforms, how tight of a rope will he have before they take action?
-- @FanaticNYM via Twitter

Internally, the Mets expect something a lot closer to what they saw in the second half of last season -- 5-3 with a 3.81 ERA -- than the first half. Once healthy and pitching every fifth day, Vargas did well to settle into a groove. The Mets feel confident he can do so again.

If he doesn't? Mickey Callaway didn't hesitate to yank Vargas from the rotation multiple times last year, so I suspect the leash will be relatively short again. A more pertinent question may be if that happens, would the Mets consider making Seth Lugo a full-time starter? It doesn't seem like that's in the cards at this point, but time can change a great many things.
Who's most likely to surprise everyone and have a breakout year?
-- RisKOutlawS via Twitter

How about J.D. Davis? He's not on a lot of peoples' minds right now, largely because there's not a ton of space on the Opening Day roster for him. But Davis' right-handed power is real. Given a chance to amass 300 or 400 plate appearances, he certainly could become an offensive force. Remember, this is a former third-round Draft pick with a lot of upside.

Any chance Todd Frazier is traded and most, if not all, of his salary is attached? Prospect return wouldn't be an issue; it's all about getting that $9 million off the books.
-- @jimmy_p257 via Twitter

Almost no chance at all. To rid themselves of that entire salary, the Mets would have to attach a pretty nice prospect to the deal, which would be counterproductive. They could deal him for nothing, but would have to eat most of the salary in that scenario. So their best course of action is probably the status quo: use Frazier at first and third base, hoping for a bounce-back season. Van Wagenen has made it clear that's the route he intends to take. If Frazier is struggling in June, the Mets can always change course at that time.
Any new food at Citi Field for 2019?
-- @Joshk327 via Twitter

Yep! The Mets have done a great job over the years of keeping their concession offerings fresh. They'll make changes again this year, but I don't have details to share with you yet; they'll announce everything at a media event in March.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.