NEW YORK -- If the Mets do re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, they will have no expectations this time around that Cespedes will be willing to play center field every day. That was their thought process heading into last season, which saw Cespedes -- citing injuries -- opt out of center shortly after the All-Star break.
Cespedes as a corner outfielder does not fit quite so snugly for the Mets, who are nonetheless pursuing him due to the caliber of his bat. So if the Mets successfully woo Cespedes, it likely would mean another season of center-field work for Curtis Granderson -- who, even approaching age 36, is willing to do that.
"It just provides a lot of options and variety that [manager] Terry Collins can move," Granderson said Tuesday in Jamaica, Queens, where he and Jose Reyes handed out Thanksgiving turkeys for families in need. "We were in a similar situation last year in September with the number of guys we had out there from Cespedes, myself, Juan Lagares coming back, [Jay Bruce], and then you had [Brandon Nimmo] and [Michael Conforto] out there in the outfield and we were able to make it work."
Of the aforementioned players, only Lagares and Nimmo are natural center fielders. But the former does not profile as an everyday option, while the latter is an unproven rookie. Neither is an ideal Opening Day answer in center.
That leaves Bruce, a below-average defensive right fielder; Conforto, who learned center field this season with reasonable success; and Granderson. The 36-year-old is the only one of that group with significant center-field experience, playing there regularly from his rookie year through 2012. The Yankees initially moved Granderson off the position at age 32, with an eye toward his declining performance there. But Granderson held his own at the position this past season, contributing a positive Defensive Runs Saved value in center for just the second time in six seasons.
"If I have to do it, obviously I would definitely be up for the -- I don't want to say challenge, but I'd be up for doing it again," Granderson said, adding that he "surprised" himself with how well he played there in 2016.
Even if Cespedes does not return, there is a decent chance that Granderson winds up in center, though that situation would free up more playing time at a corner spot for him.
"One way or the other, things are going to have to move forward, regardless of whether or not he's back," Granderson said. "Of course you'd like to have somebody of his caliber in our lineup, because there's not too many guys like a Yoenis Cespedes that are able to do the things that he's able to. If we get him, it'll be a great thing for us. If we unfortunately don't get him, then obviously we'll continue to keep moving forward."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.