New York Mets: Could Cespedes play official games in spring training?

Andres Chavez
New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes
Jul 20, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Mets designated hitter Yoenis Cespedes (52) adjusts his sunglasses during warms up before a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As the New York Mets suffer another injury in the form of a right oblique strain by Michael Conforto, the question remains: will Yoenis Cespedes, the man who virtually got the team into the 2015 World Series by himself, be ready to play in the start of the season?

For that to happen, Cespedes would have to clear, realistically, another hurdle: playing in spring training games. If he doesn’t do that, then he will hardly be an option for Mets’ manager Luis Rojas as far as being on the opening day roster is concerned.

The outfielder hasn’t played since July 2018 because of multiple heel surgeries and a freak accident in his ranch last year that resulted in a fractured ankle and an amended contract. From earning north of $29 million this year, he is now at $6 million. He could earn more than $20 million in total if he hits milestones and incentives. One of them, which would take his base salary from $6 million to $11 million, is being on the opening day roster.

Now, Cespedes is making strides. He really is. The outfielder has been seen in videos doing agility drills, hitting bombs in batting practice, and doing conditioning work. Just a couple of days ago, he started running to first base at full speed. That itself is a gigantic step forward.

The Mets are closely monitoring his progress

Now, he needs to run through the bases at full speed to be considered as an option to hop on the New York Mets’ team bus and play in spring training games. Will he have enough time to do that?

Mets’ coach Gary DiSarcina said to MLB.com that Cespedes is working his tail off to be ready. He not only has the motivation of playing to enhance his current contract: he will, if he so decides, play for his next contract, as his four year pact, the one he signed in 2016 with the New York Mets, will be up after the season.

General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said on Tuesday that “we don’t have any timeline for when Yoenis will be ready. We’re focused on his work each day and progressing accordingly.” He has repeated that line, with more or less the same words, since the start of the spring. And what else can he say? Cespedes needs to force his way on the roster, but he may be running out of time.

Once he is, however, he can prove to be a difference-maker. It’s not like he forgot how to hit. But it all depends on his health. Cespedes is, as Mike Lupica of MLB.com puts it, the Mets’ biggest “if.”