The 2017 baseball season convinced me that there is a horrible little gremlin who lives in a garbage-laden ditch next to the Grand Central Parkway in Flushing. He luxuriates in the cold winter winds off the bay; he is soothed by the unfettered, ear-splitting scream of turbojet engines; he collects broken hubcaps and rotting banana peels and jagged lids from discarded tin cans. He hates the Mets.
It is to this gremlin that I attribute the impossible succession of major injuries to nearly every “impact” New York Met in 2017. I just know in my bones that this foul little beast has a faded Mets voodoo doll in its filthy lair; and I know that it scrawled the names of all the players it intended to fell this year, and that it delighted in wrecking seasons, jeopardizing careers, and torturing Mets fans.
Alas, the legendary Yoenis Cespedes was not immune to the injury gremlin’s wicked plans in 2017. Quite the opposite, in fact: Cespedes missed precisely half the season with injuries to his quadriceps. Injuries and trips to the DL are commonplace throughout MLB, as are rehab setbacks that necessitate additional missed time; still, it seems all but certain that Cespedes, like many other of his teammates in recent years, fell victim, at least in part, to the team’s dubious approach to injury management.
When Cespedes did play, he played well. In 321 plate appearances over 81 games, he put up an excellent .292/.352/.540 line (132 OPS+) and amassed 2.1 bWAR. One could argue that these results were all the more impressive in view of his leg issues. One also wonders, wistfully, what kind of numbers he would have put up if he had been healthy.
Yoenis Cespedes just turned 32, and it’s fair to wonder about his production and health going forward. Such questions become more urgent in view of fans’ hopes for a quick return to contention and the fact that he is under contract for the next three years. It is plausible that Cespedes’s peak has come and gone. And, given that his legs have troubled him to varying degrees over the past few seasons, the specter of injury will loom.
On the other hand, Yoenis Cespedes is an exceptionally gifted baseball player, and, by all accounts, extremely diligent about taking care of himself. It’s hard to bet against those things, and there seems a good chance that he will bounce back from his injury-shortened 2017 and return to health and excellence.
Still, questions will linger. In that way, and in other ways, Cespedes is emblematic of the team itself. Players like Cespedes are not easily replaced, but in light of these (and other) concerns, the Mets’ front office would do well to invest whatever apparently limited resources are available in securing positional depth and offensive reinforcements for 2018 and beyond.