Buzzer-beater: Mets get big bat, acquire Cespedes from Tigers
Yoenis Cespedes put on a scintillating show at Citi Field while winning the Home Run Derby two years ago. Now he has two months to power the New York Mets into the playoffs.
Eagerly chasing offense as the clock ticked down on Friday's trade deadline, the Mets landed the big right-handed bat they so desperately needed by acquiring Cespedes from Detroit for two minor league pitchers.
Cespedes hit .293 with 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in 102 games for the Tigers. The slugging outfielder, who can become a free agent after this season, joins his fourth team in a year and a day but represents a major boost to a weak lineup that threatened to derail New York's postseason hopes.
"He's a very dynamic player," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We think he's going to impact us in a number of different ways. But I think also just his presence in the lineup and his presence on the team will raise the energy level — and I hope it raises the energy level in the dugout and in the stands. I think that this is the kind of player that could have a big impact both in terms of the game on the field and how the team is perceived."
New York sent right-handers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa to Detroit. The Tigers decided to build for the future this week after winning the last four AL Central titles. They traded star left-hander David Price and closer Joakim Soria on Thursday.
The Mets, on the other hand, are pushing to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. After six straight losing seasons and years of rebuilding, they've developed a talented young rotation that's pitched them within striking distance even though New York ranked last in the majors in runs and batting average, and 29th in on-base percentage and slugging.
Going into the opener of a pivotal three-game series with Washington on Friday night, the Mets trailed the first-place Nationals by three games in the NL East. New York was 4 1/2 games behind in the race for the second NL wild card.
"When you're in the hunt, what you want is general managers on your team to be somewhat aggressive," injured third baseman David Wright said as news of the Cespedes trade was breaking. "And it seems like Sandy has done that. So give him credit."
The Mets have been trying for weeks to improve their lineup. Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said a trade fell through Wednesday night that would have sent outfielder Carlos Gomez to the Mets, an embarrassing saga that played out on social media and on the field, where New York infielder Wilmer Flores wiped tears from his eyes after hearing he was part of the deal.
"There was always a desire to get something done," Alderson said. "I don't think that we felt that we were under the gun to do something because that deal did not go through."
New York obtained infielders Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from Atlanta last week, then added reliever Tyler Clippard in a deal with Oakland on Monday. With the trade for Cespedes, the Mets have given up five minor league pitchers in the last week for four players they do not control after this season.
"We believe we're in a position to compete through the rest of the season for a playoff spot and we're going to do everything we can," Alderson said. "We'll deal with next season later."
Alderson said the deal with the Tigers came together pretty quickly in the last couple of days. He said an agreement was reached with 13 minutes to go and approved just before Friday's 4 p.m. deadline for making trades without putting a player through waivers.
He said Cespedes will join the team Saturday and play left field, a spot that belonged to struggling veteran Michael Cuddyer before he was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 22, with left knee inflammation.
Alderson said the Mets will address that logjam when Cuddyer is ready to return. It's possible Cespedes or right fielder Curtis Granderson could move to center.
The Mets owe Cespedes $3,729,508 for the rest of this season. Including the deals for Uribe, Johnson and Clippard, New York's payroll has increased by about $8.19 million within the last week.
The 22-year-old Fulmer has spent most of the season with Double-A Binghamton, going 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA. The 23-year-old Cessa has split time between Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas. In 18 starts between those two levels, he is 7-7 with a 3.98 ERA.
"As an organization, one of your responsibilities is to regroup when you can and you add and you make moves," Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski said in Baltimore, where the Tigers played the Orioles. "You have to kind of assess where you are."
Detroit is in fourth place in the AL Central. Although a wild-card berth remains a possibility, Dombrowski apparently thought looking toward next year and beyond was a better option.
"We had asked for Fulmer for the last couple of days and they said no," he said. "They finally came back and made the deal."
Dombrowski said other teams around the majors helped make these trades happen for Detroit.
"I really kind of left it to other clubs to kind of control where we were going with this," he said. "And the three guys we traded were the three guys that were actively pursued."