If Cespedes Returns, Who Goes?

Fans are clamoring for Yoenis Cespedes. They want him. They need him. Here’s the problem. What’s the corresponding move?

When the Cubs signed Ben Zobrist, they were prepared. They had a deal worked out for Starlin Castro to go to the Yankees. Having the deal in place helped prevent the market from suppressing Castro’s value because the Cubs would’ve had to trade Castro. If the Mets want to sign Cespedes, they’re going to have to do the same thing. 

Right now, the Mets have Michael Conforto in left, Juan Lagares and Alejandro De Aza platooning in center, and Curtis Granderson in right. If you sign Cespedes, something’s gotta give. Let’s start with the obvious. You’re not moving Conforto. Also, with the Mets signing De Aza cannot be traded until June 15th. That leaves Granderson and Lagares. Which one do you move?  It’s a matter of selling low on Lagares or selling high on Granderson. 

If you trade Lagares, you’re trading an elite defensive player. He was a 5.5 WAR player and a Gold Glover just in 2014. He had a down year in 2015. We don’t know how much of it had to do with his elbow injury, but he fell off the map defensively. He went from an 18.6 UZR to a 3.5. Basically, he went from a Gold Glover to merely above average. If Lagares isn’t elite defensively, he’s not an everyday player. 

I still think Lagares has value. He had a terrific postseason hitting .348/.375/.435. He performed well in Winter League action this, even if he showed platoon splits. He’s  still just 26 years old. The hope is he rebuilds his value. If he does, and you sell low, you’re going to regret it. 

The other choice is Granderson, who may be at the apex of his value. Last year he hit .259/.364/.457. He was a dynamic leadoff hitter. For long stretches of the season, he was the only legitimate hitter in the lineup holding things together. He was a Gold Glove finalist. He was the best position player on the Mets last year. He then followed it up with a great postseason. He hit three World Series homeruns.  He’s a great fit for a win-now team like the Mets. 

However, he is turning 35 before the start of the next season. He’s a year removed from a .237/.326/.388 season. He just had surgery on a torn ligament in his thumb. There are risks relying upon his production for next year. 

The last option would be to keep everyone. That is a monumental task for Terry Collins. You have to keep Lagares and De Aza happy with even more limited at bats. You have to hold off on the temptation of benching Conforto for stretches if he struggles or goes into a prolonged slump. There’s an issue of relying on Wilmer Flores too much. Remember, he hit .263/.295/.408 last year. The Mets still need a 1B/OF option. 

Putting aside the issues it would create, Cespedes is a good player who could help the Mets. The fans want him. The issue then becomes who do the fans want to jettison?