When he was healthy this season—or at least as close as one can get to healthy, considering what he was dealing with—Yoenis Cespedes was very much the same Yoenis Cespedes we know and love. In the 37 games Cespedes played in April and May, he posted a 122 wRC+ and 0.9 fWAR. He was on pace for a similar campaign to his 2016 season, in which he put up 3.8 fWAR and hit 31 home runs, driving in 86 runs.
But the chronic leg issues he has dealt with since the Mets signed him continued to crop up and wreak havoc with his season. After experiencing some pain on May 6, Cespedes got an MRI in mid May and was diagnosed with a “mild strain of [his] right hip flexor.” Even after he initially injured himself, Cespedes played through it for five games, over which he went 5-for-15 with two walks and a home run. Reluctantly, the Mets finally placed him on the disabled list on May 16th, still optimistic that he could rest and be good as new in no time.
But this turned into a lengthy DL stint. He was out of the lineup for nine and a half weeks. During that nine and a half weeks, Sandy Alderson expressed some ambivalence about the Cespedes contract and how much money Cespedes makes was nearly always the first point made in articles written about his time on the DL. In June, the Mets tried to rush Cespedes back so he could play against the Yankees in the Subway Series, but he had a setback.
Then in July, another Yankee series loomed and the Mets once again tried to win the battle of the back pages by bringing Cespedes back for the series. Cespedes played on July 21st, serving as the designated hitter, and went 2-for-4 with a home run. The Mets beat the Yankees and for a brief moment, all was well. But that all came crashing down when Cespedes admitted that he was in pain during the game and that pain—along with all of his chronic leg problems—stemmed from calcification in his heels that would require surgery to resolve.
Despite having known about this heel issue since they signed him, for a brief period, the Mets acted as if this revelation was news to them, as there appeared to be a disconnect between Cespedes and the team about a path forward. Rumors were floated that Cespedes was “exaggerating” his injury. The similarities between Cespedes’ situation and Carlos Beltran’s in 2010 were stark. After a weekend-long purgatory, John Ricco and Cespedes announced via a joint press conference that Cespedes would be having season-ending surgery to remove the calcification in his heels.
Cespedes had the first of the two surgeries on August 2nd and is slated to have the second surgery on October 23rd. He was present for David Wright’s farewell game the last weekend of the season and spoke to the media for the first time since the surgery, not readily giving any predictions as to when he will return next season. He said that he will require about four months of rest after the second surgery, after which he can begin baseball activities, but no running. “Even though I’m getting older and the doctor said that there’s a chance that the bone [calcification] can go back again,” Cespedes said, “I will play pain-free, so I can do things like I used to do before.” He also mentioned that his right heel already feels “way better” than it did before he surgery.
Even though the outlook for Cespedes—who has played in just 119 games since the Mets signed him to his current contract—is uncertain for next season, there is one thing that is certain. The Mets are a much better team with a healthy Cespedes in the lineup.