The New York Mets have not had what one would call an “active offseason.” They kept Jay Bruce, brought back Jerry Blevins, and re-signed Fernando Salas and Neil Walker. Of course, signing star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110 million dollar deal was the most consequential move of the Mets’ offseason.
Cespedes returned the favor with a commitment of his own. The 31-year-old was among the first arrivals at Port St. Lucie last week and is training like a man on a mission. “Signing early has allowed me to do everything I wanted to do and train to get ready for the season,’’ Cespedes told The New York Post’s Kevin Kernan. “I’m much more comfortable now with having a multi-year contract.”
Cespedes knows the toll that frequent trades can place on a player. After all, the Mets are his fourth team since 2014. His new contract, which includes a no-trade clause, provides some much-needed security for Cespedes. He is also encouraged by his early work with Mets strength and conditioning adviser Mike Barwis.
“Mike is a super intelligent guy who is really helping me out, and I am going to be ready to be healthy for the whole season,’’ Cespedes added.
Barwis placed his own vote of confidence in Cespedes’ offseason preparation. “He is inspired to achieve greatness, while inspiring others,” Barwis told Kernan. “A guy like that, there is no stopping him. His workout is phenomenal. He is in here five days a week day pushing hard.’’
Just how hard did Cespedes push? It turns out the outfielder battled a nagging quadriceps injury last season, one he tried to hide from teammates. “I was trying to mask it,” Cespedes revealed. “Trying to play through it and do as much as I could to help the team.”
Cespedes certainly did help the team. He smashed 31 home runs and 86 runs batted in en route to winning the 2016 Silver Slugger Award. He also finished eighth in NL MVP voting. There is no doubt Cespedes has a penchant for distractions. He loves playing golf during the season and does not mind driving his exotic cars to Spring Training.
Nonetheless, the Mets would be happy to live with those headaches if he could carry them back to the Fall Classic. The Mets are 106-74 since his 2015 debut in New York. Their record drops to 18-23 without him in the lineup.
If these grueling offseason workouts are any indication, Cespedes will bring an entirely different vibe to the Mets in 2017. He iterated his plan to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and be “ready to go to be the first one here.”
He also joined several Mets players in expressing newfound hope for a World Series title. “There are a lot of possibilities,” he told Kernan. “If our health stays with our pitching staff and with our position players, we can achieve that goal.’’
Jesse Andreozzi is a staff writer at Outside Pitch Sports Network covering the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter @Jesse_Andreozzi