The defending National League champion Mets reloaded on Friday night, signing outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a three-year, $75 million contract. The deal includes an opt-out clause after the first year and a full no-trade clause. If Cespedes chooses to opt out, he’ll earn $27.5 million for the one season rather than $25 million.
Cespedes was heavily pursued by the Orioles and Nationals, as well as the Padres and White Sox. For the Mets, adding the slugger back into the mix addresses their last glaring need and pushes Juan Lagares back into a bench role. The Mets could attempt to trade Lagares before the start of the regular season.
Earlier this offseason, the Mets acquired second baseman Neil Walker in a trade with the Pirates as a replacement for Daniel Murphy, who signed with the Nationals. The Mets also signed Asdrubal Cabrera to handle shortstop, and as we’ll discuss shortly, the club inked lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo as well.
Cespedes, 30, hit a combined .291/.328/.542 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI in a career year with the Tigers and Mets last season. The Mets acquired him from the Tigers at the non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for minor leaguers Luis Cessa and Michael Fulmer. Cespedes went on a power surge with the Mets, slugging 17 home runs in a span of 31 games between August 12 and September 14, helping the club end its playoff drought.
Because 2015 was a career-best for Cespedes, fantasy owners should expect his numbers to come in a bit lower this coming season. That means around 85-90 runs scored and 85-90 RBI with close to 25 home runs and a .270 batting average.
Mets Add Bastardo
The Mets had a busy week. Along with the Cespedes signing on Friday, the club also inked lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo to a two-year, $12 million deal on Wednesday. He’ll earn $5.25 million in 2016 and $6.5 million in ’17 with the remaining $250,000 coming as a signing bonus.
Bastardo joins a bullpen that is already lefty-heavy, as the Mets also have Jerry Blevins, Josh Edgin, and Sean Gilmartin. However, as Blevins is guaranteed a spot and Bastardo figures to have one as well, this means Edgin and Gilmartin will need to impress in spring training to snag a spot on the 25-man Opening Day roster.
Bastardo, 30, was inconsistent over six seasons with the Phillies, as his ERA ranged from 2.32 in 2013 to 4.33 the year prior. With the Pirates last season, he posted a 2.98 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 26 walks in 57 1/3 innings. Compared to his numbers in previous seasons, Bastardo wasn’t pitching noticeably better as his strikeout, walk, and batted ball rates were all similar to his typical rates. However, he averaged 92.8 MPH on his fastball, up 1.3 MPH over the previous year and his highest average velocity since 2010 in 18 2/3 innings. Bastardo also relied more heavily on his fastball, throwing it about 75 percent of the time compared to around 60 percent with the Phillies.
Perhaps Bastardo’s success in 2015 has to do with the tutelage of pitching coach Ray Searage, who has worked his magic with a handful of other pitchers including Francisco Liriano and J.A. Happ. It could also be that he just got good results. Unfortunately for us, relievers work in such small sample sizes that it’s tough to say with any real certainty whether their results are real or illusory. It won’t matter for fantasy purposes, however, as Bastardo won’t be used in save situations unless the Mets suffer from an injury epidemic in the bullpen.
Marlins’ Closer Role Up for Grabs
Ramos and the Marlins recently avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $3.4 million salary in the right-hander’s first year of eligibility. Functioning as the club’s closer last season, the 29-year-old went 32-for-36 in save situations with a 2.30 ERA and an 87/26 K/BB ratio across 70 1/3 innings. Due to his experience, and the fact that the Marlins are already paying him what is to them a lot of money, Ramos seems to be the favorite for the position.
Capps, 25, was impressive in his own right for the Marlins this past season. The right-hander posted a 1.16 ERA with 58 strikeouts and seven walks in 31 innings. He did so using a fastball that averaged 98.1 MPH which was exceeded only by Aroldis Chapman. Capps certainly has better stuff than Ramos and the capacity to get the job done. However, as Capps has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining, the club might prefer to keep his price low by keeping him out of save situations.
Fantasy owners should keep a close watch on this situation as it plays out in spring training. Capps has the potential to yield a huge return as he’s not a household name yet and could go undrafted in some leagues. Ramos will typically be taken in the early double-digit rounds of standard roto leagues but could still turn in surplus value as the Marlins figure to improve over last year’s 71-91 record simply by getting full, healthy seasons from Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton. More wins means more save opportunities.
Quick Hits: The Diamondbacks are still trying to trade second baseman Aaron Hill, but are having trouble with better options remaining in free agency … Outfielder Josh Reddick is willing to discuss a contract extension with the Athletics … The Angels have received some trade interest in starter C.J. Wilson … Astros DH Evan Gattis said he lost 18 pounds this offseason in an effort to be more nimble … Free agent pitcher Tim Lincecum will hold a showcase for teams in February … The Rangers and third baseman Adrian Beltre have had preliminary talks about a contract extension … The Royals signed reliever Peter Moylan to a minor league deal on Friday … The Mets avoided arbitration with first baseman Lucas Duda and reliever Jenrry Mejia on Friday, agreeing to respective one year deals of $6.725 million and $2.47 million … The Tigers and outfielder J.D. Martinez have reportedly discussed a long-term contract extension … The Padres designated outfielder Rymer Liriano on Friday to create roster space for shortstop Alexei Ramirez … The Mets designated reliever Carlos Torres for assignment on Friday to create roster space for reliever Antonio Bastardo … On Friday, free agent reliever Jared Burton was suspended 50 games for a second positive drug test … The Twins avoided arbitration with reliever Kevin Jepsen on Friday, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $5.3 million … The Mariners signed 1B Gaby Sanchez to a minor league deal on Friday … The Angels and starter Garrett Richards avoided arbitration on Thursday on a one-year deal worth $6.425 million … The White Sox signed reliever Matt Alberts for one year and $2.25 million on Thursday … The Astros signed pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training on Thursday … On Thursday, the Cubs signed infielder Munenori Kawasaki to a minor league deal … Commissioner Rob Manfred moved the non-waiver trade deadline from July 31 to August 1 for this season only.