Eleven days ago the New York Mets made headlines in a way only the Mets can: Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the 2020 season and we all learned about it when he didn't show up to the ballpark. The Mets sent a security team to his hotel room in Atlanta to check on him and he'd gone home. It wasn't until later that day that everyone was on the same page.
Cespedes went 5 for 31 (.161) with two home runs in eight games as the team's full-time designated hitter before opting out. He had not played since July 2018 because of heel and ankle injuries and the rust was showing. The Mets kept him in the lineup though, mostly because they knew he could be a difference-maker if he ever got on track.
Cespedes opting out has been a blessing in disguise. Dominic Smith, who had been relegated to a part-time role earlier this season, have moved into the lineup full-time and become one of the team's most dangerous hitters. Smith was 3 for 12 (.150) in the team's first 10 games of the season. In nine games since Cespedes opted out, he is 8 for 30 (.267) with five doubles and three homers.
Smith, 25, is a former first round pick and top prospect who excelled in a part-time role last year, hitting .282/.355/.525 with 11 home runs in 197 plate appearances around a foot injury. The problem? Smith is a natural first baseman and capital-B Blocked there by Pete Alonso. Cespedes opting out has opened up DH at-bats and Smith is capitalizing on the opportunity.
This past offseason the Mets were reportedly willing to part with Smith as a way to unload Jed Lowrie and/or Jeurys Familia, similar to the Red Sox using Mookie Betts to unload David Price's contract. It seemed like a great opportunity for a rebuilding team. Smith can really hit and he's also a sneaky good defensive first baseman. He's not just a lumbering masher.
No team jumped on New York's willingness to use Smith as a trade sweetener and the Mets are better for it now. Their pitching is a bit of a mess, but they're very much in the postseason race -- the Mets came into Friday in the second wild-card spot -- and Smith is helping them stay afloat. The man who started the season without a position is now an indispensable part of the lineup.