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Van Wagenen expects return to form for Yo

Mets general manager addresses variety of topics on Truck Day
MLB.com @_dadler

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes is still a long way from stepping onto the field for a Major League game. Even when Spring Training gets underway, the Mets likely won't have any concrete sense of when that might be.

But as general manager Brodie Van Wagenen prepares to head down to Port St. Lucie, Fla. on Wednesday -- his 100th day on the job -- he made two things clear about Cespedes: The Mets are still looking for him to contribute this year and next, and they expect Cespedes to return to his superstar level of play.

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes is still a long way from stepping onto the field for a Major League game. Even when Spring Training gets underway, the Mets likely won't have any concrete sense of when that might be.

But as general manager Brodie Van Wagenen prepares to head down to Port St. Lucie, Fla. on Wednesday -- his 100th day on the job -- he made two things clear about Cespedes: The Mets are still looking for him to contribute this year and next, and they expect Cespedes to return to his superstar level of play.

"We expect him to be an MVP-caliber player when he comes back," Van Wagenen said on Monday at Citi Field, as the Mets loaded their equipment truck and sent it off to their Spring Training facility. "And I know he does as well."

Tweet from @Mets: Next stop: Port St. Lucie, FL ������������🌴 Thanks @ODFL_Inc for getting us to #SpringTraining! #LGM pic.twitter.com/zmVv1WqVvJ

Cespedes is recovering from a pair of surgeries to remove bone calcification from both heels, the latter of which was performed on Oct. 26. It's a slow process for the 33-year-old outfielder, who's under contract for two more seasons, and the Mets still don't want to commit to a timetable.

"I don't think we'll have an idea during Spring Training," Van Wagenen said. "Our expectation is that he can make progress every day, that we build him up in a smart fashion so that we're not taxing him too soon. We want to make sure he's 100 percent healthy when he comes back, whenever that day is.

"We're counting on him to make a contribution in '19. We're counting on him to make a contribution in '20. Hopefully he continues to make progress."

Van Wagenen not ruling out more moves
The Mets have had contact with Gio Gonzalez this offseason, and a number of veteran free-agent starters are still available, but Van Wagenen reiterated on Monday that the Mets are happy with the back-end rotation options they have. Still, Van Wagenen didn't close the door on trying to add more starting-pitching depth, and he said he'd continue to be "opportunistic," even if it's after Spring Training has begun.

"We'll have a chance to go down and not only see where our pitchers are at, but make evaluation decisions about other pitchers that exist around the league -- see what the best opportunities are to make us better and keep our eyes open for them," Van Wagenen said.

Van Wagenen said the Mets "feel really good" about their list of names, but if they do go out and make a move, they could still potentially take on another Major League contract.

"I don't think we have any restrictions about what we can or can't do," Van Wagenen said. "I think it's more about how we fit the guys on the roster that we have."

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New York has Jason Vargas slotted in as the No. 5 starter, with Seth Lugo also a candidate with starting experience. Robert Gsellman seems more likely to pitch out of the bullpen, but Van Wagenen said that Gsellman and Lugo both have "real rotation spot potential if we needed to go to them."

The Mets will start to map out their pitching staff, including factoring in Minor League options like Hector Santiago, Walker Lockett and Kyle Dowdy, who are in the mix for roster spots, once they get to Port St. Lucie. Van Wagenen said the Mets want all of their pitchers to be prepared for whatever roles might come, so Lugo and Gsellman might both stretch out as starters to begin with.

Mets want to stay flexible with outfield use
The Mets are looking to find a variety of ways to deploy all of their outfield options. That could include playing both of their defensive specialists -- Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton -- at the same time.

"As we've designed it, Lagares and Broxton have similar skill sets, and both guys can really change the game defensively," Van Wagenen said. "So in addition to being out there in center field on their own, they can also both be out there in the outfield at the same time, in left and center or right and center."

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Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo have two of the outfield spots locked down, and Jeff McNeil is expected to get a lot of reps in the outfield, too. But Lagares and Broxton are the best defenders of the group.

"We intend to use both of those guys," Van Wagenen said. "We know Broxton's speed and power add an additional element to our club. We hope that both guys can be out there a lot."

Prospect camp opens Thursday

The Mets have a prospect camp starting on Thursday, the day after Van Wagenen heads to Port St. Lucie.

"I'm really excited about that, because so many of the young players I haven't gotten a chance to see with my own eyes," Van Wagenen said. "It'll be fun to get those kids down there and be able to see what their talents are."

David Adler is a reporter and researcher for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

New York Mets, Keon Broxton, Yoenis Cespedes, Robert Gsellman, Juan Lagares, Seth Lugo