By: Noah Wright
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Back at the 2015 Deadline, The Detroit Tigers were 50-53, and seemed to be entering a rebuild. They had already traded off ace David Price (who was on the last year of his contract) to The Blue Jays for 3 prospects on July 30th, but would make another blockbuster trade on the deadline by trading all-star level outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to The Mets for then prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cesa. Now that the 2018 deadline has passed, let’s take a look back at how well this trade has aged.
After a trade for then Brewers’ outfielder Carlos Gomez fell through, and a very emotional Wilmer Flores was seen on TV, The Mets turned their attention to the Tigers’ left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes entered the deadline batting .293/.323/.506 with 18 home runs, and 61 RBI’s, and on the last year of his contract. His always gold glove level defense was on display in Detroit too with 11 DRS, 9 assists, and a .8 defensive WAR, all in left field. The Mets were also looking to add to a contending team too. Their outfield consisted of an old and declining Michael Cuddyer, and a very glove first Juan Lagares. Both had averages below .260, and OPS’s under .700. Their only large producing outfielder at the time was Curtis Granderson, who was batting .255/.350/.440 with 16 home runs, and 36 RBI’s entering The 31st. Their only other option that was in the minors was Brandon Nimmo, who only saw limited time in Triple-A. After coming to The Mets, Cespedes would go on to bat .287/.337/.604 with 17 home runs, and 44 RBI’s in just 230 plate appearances. His production took a real bost after being traded to NY. He also helped the team in the postseason, as he hit 2 home runs in The NLDS against The Dodgers, and batted for a .286 average in The NLCS against The Cubs. After the 2015 season, The Mets resign Cespedes to a 4 year, $110 deal. He proved to be worth the money in his first season back in NY. Cespedes made The All-Star game again in 2016, and finished the season batting .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs, 86 RBI’s, and a near career high 131 wRC+. While his overall defense that season was underwhelming, he started the season as the team’s main CF, but then was moved to LF where he performed much better. His overall great season helped the team go to The Postseason again in The Wild Card. While The Mets lost in The Wild Card game against The Giants, and Cespedes went 0-4 that game, his overall season was very good. 2017 would be a somewhat of a struggle for Ces, as he only played in 81 games. However when he was healthy, he performed similarly to 2016. Overall he batted .292/.352/.540 with 17 home runs, 42 RBI’s, and 131 wRC+. His defense continued to be just above average with 2 DRS, -.1 defensive WAR, and -3.2 UZR. Now it’s 2018, and Cespedes is arguably having the worst season of his career, and not because of his performance. Cespedes is still batting a good .262/.325/.496 with 9 home runs, 29 RBI’s, and 120 wRC+. However, he’s only played in 38 games and will now miss the rest of the season, plus he could miss part of the 2019 season too. While Cespedes has overall only had one season when he played more than 100 games in a season, he’s overall batted .282/.346/.543 in NY, along with 74 RBI’s, and 201 RBI’s in 1270 plate appearances.
Now let's look at what The Tigers got in return for Cespedes. Going back to Detroit in this deal was then prospect Michael Fulmer, and Luis Cesa. The biggest piece going to The Tigers was Michael Fulmer. Fulmer slotted into The Tigers farm as their #1 prospect, and #99 in all of baseball. At the time, Fulmer was rated with a good fastball, and slider, along with decent control. Fulmer was only in double-A at the time, and was performing well. Overall in the 2015 season, Fulmer was pitching to a 2.24 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, 2.73 FIP, 2.2 walk/9 rate, and a 9 K/9 rate in 124.2 innings pitched. The next season, Fulmer would play just 15 and a third innings in Triple-A before getting called up to The MLB, ad made his debut in April 29th, 2016. Fulmer pitched 5 innings against The Twins in his first game, and gave up just 2 runs, while striking out 4 batters, and walking only 1. Over the course of his rookie season, Fulmer showed the impressive performance he showed in the minors. Overall, Fulmer pitched in 159 innings for a 3.06 ERA, 3.76 FIP, and a 1.119 WHIP. While his 7.4 K/9 rate wasn’t too impressive, he did have a low 2.4 walk/9 rate. Fulmer’s efforts in 2016 helped him win The AL Rookie Of The Year over Gary Sanchez and Tyler Naquin, and finishing 10th in Cy Young voting. Fulmer would continue to pitch well in 2017. In the first half of 2017, Michael pitched for a 3.13 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and keeping batters to a .238/.285/.335 batting line. He would be The Tigers one All-Star representative during his sophomore season. However after an impressive first half, his performance would take a dip. In his last 49 innings on the season, Fulmer’s ERA spiked to 5.33, and his WHIP went to 1.245. While he did struggle in the second half, he still kept batters to a .255/.316/.386 line. In September, Fulmer was forced to undergo elbow surgery, and missed the last half of a month of the season. Entering 2018, Fulmer started the second game of the season for The Tigers, and he did very well. Seemingly fully recovered from surgery, Michael went 8 innings giving up just 1 earned run, and 4 hits. He walked just 2 batters, and struckout 3 against The Pirates. However, his first few games of the season have been the highlights of his 2018 year so far. Since May, Fulmer has a 5.12 ERA, and has walked 31 batters in 82.2 innings. Plus since July 20th, Fulmer has spent time on The 10-day recovering from a left oblique strain. Overall, Fulmer is still just 25, and still has plenty of time to show that he can be a top of the rotation level starter in The MLB. The other piece The Tigers got in this deal was starter Luis Cesa. Cesa never geared up in The MLB as a Tiger, but was traded in the 2015-2016 off season along with Chad Green to The Yankees for left hander Justin Wilson, who eventually took over as their closer in 2017. Then Wilson was traded to The Chicago Cubs for 2 prospects; Isaac Paredes, a 19 year old infielder who is performing well in The Tigers’ double-A club, and Jeimer Candelario; the team’s current third baseman whose batting .226/.318/.413 with 14 home runs, 39 RBI’s, in 400 plate appearances this season.
Now looking back at this swap about 3 years later, the trade gave pieces that each team needed. The Tigers were starting a rebuild, and received Michael Fulmer, who can play into a larger picture for the team, and Luis Cesa who indirectly helped them get 2 other prospects that also could play a role into the team’s future plans. The Mets got an all-star caliber player that they needed to further fortify a line-up that was playoff ready team. While they may no longer be a playoff level team, Cespedes helped The Mets make the playoffs twice. However, that contract The Mets gave him after 2015 looks a little bit worse every time Cespedes goes on The DL for a long period of time. He’s only played 119 games between 2017 and 2018, but was owed a total of $51 million between those two years, and is owed $29 million for both 2019 and 2020. Cespedes could still be the consistent .280/.330/.530 The Mets are paid him to be, but so far, his inconsistent health is not what The Mets were expecting when signing him to a 4 year $110 million deal.