In 2015, the New York Mets had the foundation of a World Series contending team. The roster was led by veterans such as Curtis Granderson, David Wright, and Daniel Murphy while also fielding budding superstars like Jacob DeGrom, Michael Conforto, and Matt Harvey.
At the end of that July, the Mets were sitting just above .500 at 53-50. They were looking good but needed something new. On July 31, the New York Mets traded top prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa to the Detroit Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes.
Cespedes, 30 at the time, had somewhat of a whirlwind of a career with the Athletics, Red Sox, and Tigers. He cemented himself as one of the best power-hitting corner outfielders in the MLB throughout his early career. The Mets saw that and brought him in.
When Yoenis Cespedes arrived in New York, he took the city by storm. On August 21, Cespedes exploded and went 5 for 6 with three home runs against the Colorado Rockies. The spark that he provided led the Mets to their first Division title since 2006. He contributed significantly to their pennant run. Unfortunately, Yoenis and the rest of the team couldn’t get it done against the Kansas City Royals.
In the offseason, the Mets got very lucky as the free-agent market was very slow, and many stars such as Justin Upton and Alex Gordon were not getting as much money as many thought they should have gotten. Towards the end of January, the Mets reached an agreement with Cespedes on a three-year, $75 million deal contract that included an opt-out after the 2016 season.
Mets fans were ecstatic as they got their superstar back for at least another year.
Cespedes began Spring Training in 2016 rather interestingly. Yoenis drove to camp in a new sports car, every day. While harmless, this started a trend of Cespedes beginning to distract from his on-field play with his antics not related to baseball.
Cespedes continued to rake in 2016, putting up a .280 average and 31 home runs. Towards the end of the season, Cespedes landed on the IL for a strained quad muscle. But, he was spotted playing golf in Westchester, NY just days after his injury. He received a lot of criticism from Mets fans as they wanted him at 100% for their postseason run. Unfortunately, the Mets lost in the Wild Card game to the Giants just weeks later.
In the offseason, Cespedes opted out of his Mets contract and entered free agency again. He attracted interest from other teams but decided to stay with the Mets again and signed a four-year, $110 million contract to remain locked in with New York until the 2021 season.
In 2017, injuries began to plague Cespedes as he only played in half of the games the Mets had scheduled. However, his hitting was still there as he managed to hit for a .292 average with 17 HRs.
After the 2017 season, was when things started to go downhill. Yoenis only lasted 38 games until he was forced to undergo surgery on both of his heels. The estimated timetable for recovery was 8-10 months. A couple of weeks before Cespedes was projected to be ready to play again, he fractured his ankle while on his ranch in Port St. Lucie. It was revealed later that he fell into a hole after an altercation with a wild boar. He would miss the 2019 season due to that injury.
Heading into the 2020 season, Cespedes looked to return to baseball after being out for two years. With the COVID-19 pandemic rule changes, the National League adopted a designated hitter for the first time. This provided the Mets with a perfect opportunity to reintegrate Cespedes back to the roster. His injury-riddled legs didn’t give him a chance to play in the field, so the DH position looked promising for him.
On Opening Day of the 2020 season, the Mets were in 0-0 standstill with the Atlanta Braves after a Jacob DeGrom gem. In the 7th inning, Yoenis Cespedes broke the game wide open with an absolute laser to the left-field stands putting the Mets up 1-0. The score stood, and the Mets won the game with fans hopeful for the return of Cespedes’ 2015 form.
Just over a week later, the Mets bullpen would struggle, and their hitters would be unable to drive runners in from scoring position.
A disgruntled Cespedes did not show up to the ballpark for the Mets August 2nd game against the Braves. Team officials were unable to contact him, and fans were starting to worry about the wellbeing of Yoenis. GM Brodie Van Wagenen revealed that Yoenis Cespedes has opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID related concerns in the postgame conference.
Fans were quick to speculate that Cespedes’ mysterious absence was because the Mets had a very slow start to the season. Others believed that Cespedes’ COVID-19 excuse was valid as the virus is making its way through various organizations. This likely is the end of Yoenis’s Mets tenure as his contract expires this offseason.
Yoenis Cespedes made some questionable decisions as a New York Met. But he also brought some fantastic memories to Mets fans, inspiring hope when there often wasn’t any hope to be had. He truly embodied the idea that “Ya Gotta Believe.” He will be missed in Queens.
Photo: Adam Hunger / Getty Images