[ad_1]

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — If seven ballplayers, all wearing identical, bright red jerseys with the same name and number on the back, stand on a field together …

If the owner of that name and number wears his cap backwards as he fields, throws and hits …

If that same guy approaches a fly ball to left field and effortlessly snares it behind his back, prompting whoops of joy and amazement …

… then you might be at a Yoenis Cespedes showcase.

Yes, on the same day the Mets enjoyed a home crowd of paying fans for the first time in nearly a year, their former fan favorite displayed his still-formidable talent some 12 miles away for scouts from 11 teams, including the Yankees, at the Bob Gladwin Baseball Complex. With free agency mostly finished, the 35-year-old represents a compelling lottery ticket for a club in need of a bat.

Stipulated, Cespedes has played in a total of 46 games since 2018 thanks to headline-grabbing injuries (you remember the wild boar, right?) and a contentious opt-out from last year’s COVID-shortened campaign. Yet to watch him display his talents in even a low-key setting like this one, for about 50 minutes, serves as a reminder of both his vast talent and his showman’s knack for excitement, the type that compels folks to buy tickets and see the act up close. Remember, the Cuban defector landed his original, four-year, $36 million contract from the A’s, in 2012, in the wake of a buzzworthy video that highlighted not only his athleticism but also his knack for roasting a pig over an open spit.

I could quote some of the scouts on site, except it would be more effective to express their general sentiments in a collective shrug, as many of them did, their shrugs meaning, “Yup, he’s still a physical wonder and somebody you can dream on.”

In addition to the Yankees, who don’t possess an obvious need for Cespedes as long as Giancarlo Stanton is upright, the Blue Jays, Brewers, Marlins, Rays, Tigers, Reds, Cubs, White Sox, Padres and Braves sent representatives. That’s more National League entities (six) than American League (five) if you’re scoring at home, and with the NL currently set to not deploy the designated hitter, Cespedes planted himself in left field for a good while and fielded base hits and fly balls (only one of which he caught behind his back), utilizing his still-mighty arm to nail imaginary runners at second base, third base and home plate. He looked comfortable enough moving laterally in the outfield to get the job done.

At the plate, working with recently dismissed Mets hitting coordinator and coach Ryan Ellis, Cespedes did some soft-toss work, and then he took batting practice against a left-handed pitcher. He pulled some shots over the left-field wall and went the other way to deposit some shots over the wall in right-center. La Potencia still can send the baseball on a long-distance trip.

2020 marked the final season of Cespedes’ four-year, $110 million contract with the Mets that wound up paying him closer to $74 million, thanks to his 2019 wild-boar encounter which fractured his right ankle (and cost him about $30 million in a settlement with the Mets) as well as his opt-out from last season after only eight games. Given that recent injury history, he might have to settle for a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training, which of course already is under way. In the best-case scenario of a major league deal, he’d likely receive a relatively small base salary plus incentives based on plate appearances.

Yoenis Cespedes workout Yankees
Yoenis Cespedes at his showcase in Fort Pierce, Fla. on March 2, 2021.
Ken Davidoff

Yet there Cespedes stood on Tuesday, trying to continue his never-boring big league career; the youngsters also wearing “CESPEDES 52” jerseys helped run the event and took some reps in the field and at the plate to give Cespedes some breathers. He has new representation, the Magnus agency, which means that Brodie Van Wagenen did not go from being Cespedes’ agent to his general manager to his agent once more (Van Wagenen is the COO of Cespedes’ prior agency, Roc Nation). His training team asserts that he’s in far better shape than last year, when he worked against the clock to try to be ready on time.

The Florida Lottery, jackpot $123 million, runs again Wednesday. Cespedes will cost more than one of those tickets, although he’s a lot more fun, and the payoff can nevertheless prove sizable.

Someone surely will give him a chance. And it surely will be a blast, good or bad, to see how the Cespedes Lottery plays out. Who else would leave longtime baseball observers both chuckling and shrugging just from doing basic drills?

[ad_2]

Source link