Formerly an American League MVP, Miguel Tejada—at age 38—is making one last push to play in the big leagues–this time with the Kansas City Royals. Tejada will also get a chance to showcase his skills one last time at the worldwide level during the World Baseball Classic when he will suit up for his native Dominican Republic.
When former All-Stars begin to see their skills deteriorate with age, it can sometimes be difficult for them to fully come to terms with reality. Often you will see players continue to play an additional three to four years after their production begins to fall off and as a result, the end of the player’s career is far from a “ride into the sunset”. The question Royals’ fans and the organization must ask themselves is, how much does Tejada have left and how much can he really help the team out this season?
Tejada’s last highly productive season came in 2009 when he was a member of the Houston Astros. During that season, Tejada hit .313 with 14 HR and 86 RBI over 158 games. Last season as part of the San Francisco Giants, Tejada .239 with 4 HR and 26 RBI in 91 games. So statistically speaking, the production has definitely reflected a deterioration of skills.
The Royals opted to give Tejada a one-year minor league contract that will be worth $1.1 million if he makes the big leagues out of spring training. There is also an additional $400,000 he can earn if he meets certain performance criteria. In terms of the contract, the monetary commitment does not show much of a high risk being taken for the Royals, but it does show that the team is willing to take a chance that Tejada does have something left to offer to a young, playoff hopeful team.
I understand and endorse the signing of Tejada if it is made with the state of mind that he will be a calming, veteran influence on a very young infield and roster. However, I cannot endorse the signing if it is intended to offer Tejada playing time if he earns it. The Royals need their young infielders like Alcides Escobar and Johnny Giavotella to have as much playing time as they can so when the day comes that the team is competitive again, those players have progressed with the rest of the team and are ready to be major contributors.
If Tejada eats up the majority of the playing time at third or second base, he is only hindering the overall development of the franchise. If the team is in a pennant race and they need a veteran presence, that is one thing, but it is certainly not a long-term fix, nor will it reap long-term benefits the more Tejada plays.
I highly doubt that Tejada was signed with the intent of him being anything more than a complementary player who can provide depth off the bench and leadership in the clubhouse. Under those circumstances, Tejada can be a very useful acquisition for the organization because if he ends up panning out and the Royals are out of contention this season, the team could trade him for as much value as they can get with future prospects. This helps the team long-term with little or no risk involved.
Time will tell how the move ultimately works for all sides involved, but at this point, there seems to be no harm done in the acquisition of Tejada. The Royals are on the right path to success and with a little more pitching and some timely hitting, the team will be right in the thick of a playoff chase come October. If that is the case, a veteran player with playoff experience like Tejada sure could come in handy.