The mystery of Yoenis Cespedes’ playing status for the 2020 season is slowly becoming worthy of a Hardy Boys novel.
While New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen remains unsure if his team will receive the services of the slugging outfielder this upcoming spring, Cespedes is indicating an entirely different story.
ESPN baseball analyst Eduardo Perez — who was up for the Mets’ managerial job before losing out to Carlos Beltran — stated on MLB Network Thursday morning that Cespedes told him that he plans to play in at least 140 games in 2020 while smacking 40-plus home runs (h/t Mike Silva).
This comes a month following a since-deleted video posted by Mets instructor Endy Chavez, which showed Cespedes taking batting practice.
The 34-year-old has played in a combined 119 games over the past three seasons. He missed the entire 2019 campaign after fracturing his ankle during a fall at his Florida ranch, which required surgery.
It was a disastrous turn of events after undergoing surgery in 2018 to remove calcification in both of his heels, which impacted his running style and was believed to play a role in nagging hamstring and quad issues.
The lack of durability forced the Mets to amend the final year of Cespedes’ contract last week ahead of the 2020 season. Originally set to make $29.5 million in the final year of his four-year, $110 million deal, the outfielder will be making less than $10 million before hitting free agency.
Van Wagenen was expected to take the money saved and reallocate it toward a more pressing need within the roster — whether that be in the bullpen or center field — but he has yet to do so.
A healthy Cespedes would create more of a log jam in the Mets’ outfield. They are currently trying to balance the playing times of Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Jake Marisnick, JD Davis, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith — though the latter three are natural infielders.
Conforto is slated as the every-day right fielder while Nimmo could be the main man in center and backed up by Marisnick if the Mets don’t trade him this winter.
If Cespedes truly is available for 140-plus games, he becomes the every-day left fielder. That forces Van Wagenen to try and deal Jed Lowrie to open up third base for JD Davis while Beltran would be presented with the tough decision of moving Robinson Cano to a utility role to give Jeff McNeil a full-time role at second base.