Cespedes’ return sets up Mets for National League title defense

Forget, for a moment, all of the drama that surrounded the final 36 hours of Yoenis Cespedes’ free agency, before Friday night when he reportedly came to terms with the Mets on a three-year, $75 million deal.It’s interesting enough, from the Nationals’ five-year bid to the emergence of a mystery team or teams, but ultimately, what matters is New York’s defense of the National League pennant in 2016.It’s a pennant that Cespedes was vital in bringing to the Big Apple, and he is just as important to the cause of winning another one. Instead of losing both their No. 3 and 4 hitters from last year’s playoffs, the Mets have seen only Daniel Murphy leave and they replaced him with a consistently better player when they traded No. 5 https://www.rockiesedges.com/colorado-rockies/chad-bettis-jersey starter Jon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker.MORE: Eight MLB stars who could be traded in 2016 (but probably won’t be)Meanwhile, the Mets can count on having Michael Conforto in left field for his first full season in the majors, as well as full seasons of Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in their rotation. The signing of Asdrubal Cabrera pushes Wilmer Flores into a backup role, improving depth, while also providing infield flexibility to try to keep David Wright fresh or spell him if his back acts up. Travis d’Arnaud can be expected to catch more than the 67 games he played in 2015.In the middle of it all will be Cespedes, who won’t post the .942 OPS that he had in 57 games after being acquired from the Tigers at the trade deadline, but is an All-Star in his prime at age30 and fits brilliantly into the middle of any lineup but particularly this one, where he clearly is the biggest threat.How much that means to Cespedes is for him to know, but he certainly seemed to thrive on being the main man for the Mets down the stretch last year. His previous best ball was played in Oakland, in a not di similar situation where Cespedes was a hero as the kind of blockbuster player the A’s don’t usually get. Had he followed Murphy to Washington, Cespedes would have been second fiddle to the reigning MVP, Bryce Harper.The Nationals have to be talked about here, because if it had been another team reportedly close to signing Cespedes on Thursday, who knows whether the Mets would have been spurred to action on Friday? Losing Cespedes would have been rough for the Mets, but losing him to Washington would have been a disaster, with quick-and-dirty WAR math telling you it would represent an 8-12 game swing in the standings. Cespedes has his flaws he lacks plate discipline and isn’t a great Jake McGee Jersey center fielder but he’s an impact player, and that impact would have been that much greater with an in-division move.With Cespedes back on board, the Mets’ bench also improves, as Juan Lagares and Alejandro De Aza now are reserves rather than a platoon in center field. With a three-year dealand an opt-out after the first year, New York avoids getting locked into big money for an aging outfielder when it comes time for the young, cheap rotation to not be so cheap anymore. The Wilpons get a break, at least temporarily, from criticism of their spendthrift ways in the wake of the Bernie Madoff me s. And if Cespedes does opt out next offseason, then signs with another team, the Mets can get draft pick compensation, which would not have been the case had he left this winter.MORE: 2015 World Series in photosThink of all that, then stop forgetting the drama of the chase. Remember how the Mets’ Twitter account posted on Thursday that there were 27 days https://www.rockiesedges.com/colorado-rockies/jonathan-lucroy-jersey left until pitchers and catchers, and got a cavalcade of obscenities in reply from disgruntled fans of the team.Remember how bleak it looked for anyone in New York who did that WAR math, saw the Nationals charging back to the top of the National League East with a vengeance and saw the Mets squandering the golden opportunity of their rotation’s youthful excellence. Remember July, before Cespedes arrived in the first place, when the Carlos Gomez trade fell through and there was the embarra sment of leaving Flores to cry on the field as he heard news of his exit in a deal that wound up not happening.When the Mets got Cespedes, it was a lightning strike to a languishing organization. Lightning is not supposed to strike twice. Friday night, it did.