Yoenis Cespedes has never played anywhere but the outfield during his nine-year big league career, but that could be about to change.
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen recently said that Cespedes is ready to go offensively as he looks to work his way back from nearly two years on the shelf. And if he's ready to mix in defense during spring training, it could include reps at first base.
"Really, it's a matter of having as many players capable of playing multiple positions as possible," Van Wagenen said over the weekend, according to Tim Healey of Newsday.
Van Wagenen noted that J.D. Davis, who is expected to be the Mets' primary left fielder and who has limited experience at first base in the majors (with the Astros in 2017 and 2018) and minors could also get reps there during spring training.
As far as Cespedes is concerned, he has played first base as a professional just once -- 9.0 innings during a rookie level rehab game in 2018.
Still, Cespedes getting reps at first base in February and March in preparation for a potential role there during the season makes plenty of sense for two reasons.
The first reason revolves around the uncertainty of "Yoenis Cespedes, outfielder." While playing through injury in 2018, Cespedes labored in left field. Since undergoing double heel surgery in 2018 and ankle surgery in 2019, Cespedes hasn't been tested in the outfield. And it's unclear if he'll be able to play out there at all, let alone on a near-everyday basis.
The second reason has to do with some uncertainty regarding the Mets' current backups to Pete Alonso at first base. One of them (Dominic Smith) has been available via trade this offseason and the other (Matt Adams) is in camp on a minor league deal. Having another player on the roster who can handle first base would be wise.
There's also the nightmare scenario of an Alonso injury. And if one occurs, being able to turn to Cespedes at first base could be a good option.
But due to his health, it remains to be seen what -- if any -- impact Cespedes will have on the 2020 Mets.
After having his salary for this season reworked due to the nature of the injury he suffered last year on his ranch, Cespedes' base salary this season is $6 million. It will rise to $11 million if he is on the Opening Day roster or if he starts the season on the IL for an issue that is not related to his recent foot/ankle ailments.
Beyond that, Cespedes can earn roughly $9 million in incentives, with much of those incentives tied to escalators that kick in when he hits a certain number of plate appearances.