By Joseph Staszewski
The night before one of the biggest blizzards in New York City history Mets fans were given a reason to start finally dreaming of spring.
The signing of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a reported three-year deal, with an opt-out option after this season, lifted the feelings of anger, anxiety and lack of fulfillment surrounding the defending National League Champions’ offseason.
Pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie Feb. 18. You can officially start counting the days.
Last year’s biggest acquisition is coming back to Queens—at least for one year—because he genuinely wants to be here and returns at the Mets’ price. You can no longer call the team’s ownership cheap or penny pinchers with the payroll pushing over $130 million.
Mets fans can also rest easy. The team’s lineup is complete and they don’t have to watch both Cespedes and Daniel Murphy playing for the rival Washington Nationals, who were also interested.
“You hear him get an offer somewhere else, and it’s a team you might have to play a lot, you don’t really want to face a guy like that all the time,” pitcher Jacob deGrom told the team’s website at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Awards. “So we’re definitely excited to have him back on our team. In the little bit of time we had him, he was impressive. So a full season is going to be a lot of fun.”
More importantly, the team isn’t making the same mistake it did in 2001 and 2007. The Mets haven’t stood pat or let key pieces get away while hoping to earn return trips to the World Series and National League Championship Series.
After facing the Yankees in the 2000 Subway Series, the Mets signed Kevin Appier to replace Mike Hampton, the NLCS MVP, and added Steve Trachsel to the rotation. Timo Perez replaced Derek Bell full time in right field. The biggest bat acquired was Tsuyoshi Shinjo.
The team was a game—technically a hit—away from the World Series in 2006 and the Mets again didn’t make a major move to improve until it signed Johan Santana in 2008. Again the Mets stood pat, outside of bringing in Moises Alou to play right field and had Luis Castillo replace Jose Valentin at second base. The team did not bring back reliable reliever Chad Bradford.
You can’t say that about the 2016 Mets. The team’s roster is deeper, more versatile and more talented than at any point last season.
Signing second baseman Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera solidified the middle of the infield, and bringing in Antonio Bastardo gives the Amazin’s another power arm in the bullpen. You get a full season of starter Steven Matz and Zach Wheeler should return at some point from Tommy John surgery.
Losing Cespedes would have left a gaping hole in the lineup. Instead you have more reasons to trust the process after years of scratching your head with Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons, whose wallets seemed to have more moths than millions.
So, as you finish digging out you cars and driveways and put the snow blowers in the garage, turn your eyes to spring and allow yourself a big smile and big dreams.