2014 Spring Training: Ruben Tejada vs. the Field For New York Mets SS

By Patrick M Arthur
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Ruben Tejada is in a boat similar to Ike Davis: They’re young guys who’ve shown the potential to be solid everyday players (Davis, 32 HR, 90 RBI in 2012, .302 BA in 2011; Tejada, 501 PA, .289 BA, 134 Hits in 2012:), but can’t quite seem to put the whole package together.

Whether it is due to injuries (Tejada had two long stints on the DL in 2013), the New York spotlight, poor coaching or general Mets front office mismanagement, both these guys need to step it up right now or invest in more back pillows for those long minor league bus rides.

The difference between the two is Tejada doesn’t have anyone in his canoe, rowing in the opposite direction. He’s the best shortstop the Mets have, by far, and even GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins know it. They also believe he can bounce back from a disastrous 2013 (.202 BA, zero HR, eight errors in only 57 games played). The fact that Stephen Drew isn’t in Port St. Lucie is testament to that.

The Mets seem to be saying “we trust you” and were encouraged by Tejada’s participation in an offseason workout regimen at a Michigan complex attended by several other teammates.

But circumstances can change quickly. Just because Tejada has the early lead in this race doesn’t mean that a bad week or two won’t open the door to a number of other candidates, both from within the Mets organization and outside of it.

He better keep his focus moving forward because “the field” is growing behind him.

Omar Quintanilla filled in well enough for Tejada to keep the latter down at triple-A after his most recent injuries, and the Mets decided to bring Quintanilla back on a minor-league contract just in case. Quintanilla has the defensive chops to be the starter; the difference here, another theme for the 2014 Mets, is who provides the most offense.

Wilmar Flores is just one of those random question marks meandering through Mets camp with no real position or purpose. Wilfredo Tovar is an interesting dark horse candidate but likely needs one more year on the farm; he’s played a total of just seven MLB games.

The issue with Stephen Drew, previously of the Boston Red Sox, is his insistence on a multiyear deal. Alderson wants to stick with a one-year deal. No one else is falling over themselves to sign Drew at short or second, so waiting him out to see if Tejada starts strong is a good strategy.

Recent headlines imply that the Seattle Mariners are looking to part with 22-year-old Nick Franklin and that the Mets are natural trading partners. But are they, really?

Franklin-for-Tejada is trading one young question mark for another – and the Mariners don’t want Tejada, they want Vic Black, Jacob deGrom or maybe even Zach Wheeler and David Wright. It doesn’t matter, because now you have two Tejadas. It’s not like you can leave them in a dark room overnight and have one very good player in the morning; they aren’t rabbits.

Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy and Jed Lowrie are all slated to be free agents in 2015 and could be in play before then. Between their top farm system and collection of spare parts, the Mets could be involved if the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles or the Oakland Athletics decide to go value-hunting.

The Mets actually seem to be in control of this situation because there are a number of satisfying options whether things go well or not for Tejada. This a great environment for everyone, specifically the player – some pressure, but not too much.

If Tejada wants to have a long MLB career, it is completely up to him. Put in one injury-free season and fulfill his potential, and everyone will see him as a player well-groomed by the Mets, saving them tens of millions on the free agent market. If not, the Mets replace him (hopefully) with a star player, saving themselves another headache going into 2015.

A win-win, more or less.

Related: 2014 Spring Training: Will Lucas Duda or Ike Davis win New York Mets’ 1B Job?

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