Yoenis Cespedes had help, but the fact is the New York Mets were just two games over .500 when he arrived and National League champions when he left. Cespedes isn't perfect, but the fact is his teams have gone 334-229 in games he has started and 179-229 when he hasn't.
He's a game-changer, and with the Mets he was a season-changer. And while they could justify not re-signing him for baseball reasons (not wanting to play him every day in center field) or for money reasons (the owners aren't going to let the payroll grow very much, if at all), the Mets are going to miss him and some other team is going to be very happy to get him.
Who will that other team be? The Cespedes market has generated surprisingly few strong rumors, but Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com provided a perhaps-significant update Tuesday afternoon on Twitter:
Yoenis Cespedes market taking shape. Source: CWS & BAL emerging as leaders for now. LAA & SFG also in the mix with TX monitoring situation.— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) December 29, 2015
So maybe Cespedes becomes the second big addition the Chicago White Sox make this winter, after their trade for third baseman Todd Frazier. Or maybe he becomes the outfield bat the Baltimore Orioles have sought since losing Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to free agency.
He'd be a nice fit with the Los Angeles Angels or the San Francisco Giants, the two teams whose left fielders had the fewest RBI in the major leagues in 2015. But Angels owner Arte Moreno recently told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times his team is "probably going to be out" of the free-agent left fielder sweepstakes, and the Giants already spent a lot of money this winter adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to their rotation.
The White Sox and Orioles make sense. The White Sox might make the most sense of all, even though they already have three starting outfielders in Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia.
Those three guys combined hit only 39 home runs last season. Cespedes hit 35 all by himself. The White Sox as a team hit the fewest home runs in the American League, an incredible stat for a team that plays home games at U.S. Cellular Field.
Adding Frazier should help. Adding Frazier and Cespedes would really help.
Suddenly, the White Sox would be what they were supposed to be last year: a true contender in the American League Central.
Where will Yoenis Cespedes sign?
The division includes the World Series champions, and some Kansas City Royals fans would be quick to point out that their team won the AL Central by 12 games over the second-place Minnesota Twins (and finished 19 games ahead of the White Sox). I'll repeat my claim that it's now the most interesting division in baseball, in part because it's the one division where all five teams seemingly believe they can win it in 2016.
That may or may not be true in the American League East, where even though Cespedes could be a big help in Baltimore, he may not be big enough. Unless the Orioles are prepared to sign Cespedes and Chris Davis—doubtful, given that signing either one would require the biggest contract in team history—Cespedes would be more of a replacement than an addition.
And given that the Orioles were a .500 team with Davis hitting 47 home runs, it's hard to argue Cespedes turns them into champions.
It would be an easier argument with the Angels, where Mike Trout could use a little help and Albert Pujols will be coming back from surgery on his right foot. It would be an easier argument with the Giants, where the Cueto and Samardzija signings were big, but the lineup still looks a little light.
It would be easier with the Mets, if you could trust Cespedes playing center field, or with the Detroit Tigers, if they hadn't needed their available funds to fix a broken pitching staff.
It would also be easier to predict where he'll end up if the market wasn't flooded with outfielders. Jason Heyward has signed, but Justin Upton and Alex Gordon remain as free-agent options for any team interested in Cespedes. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Tuesday on Twitter that the White Sox have considered Gordon as well as Cespedes.
Nothing against Gordon, but Cespedes would make the bigger impact. Cespedes on the South Side of Chicago might make the biggest impact of all.
Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.
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