Going into last offseason, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson didn’t beat around the bush when talking about his shortstop, Ruben Tejada. Alderson had some harsh words for the young Tejada, and everyone assumed that the shortstop was no longer in the Mets’ plans.
Of course, Opening Day 2014 came and Tejada was still New York’s starting shortstop. Not only that, but the Mets didn’t make one move in the offseason addressing their middle infield deficiency, unless you fancy triple-A veteran Anthony Seratelli. The long and played-out saga of Stephen Drew, which still hasn’t concluded, was a defining characteristic of the Mets’ otherwise mediocre offseason.
Now a month and change into the season and much to no one’s surprise, the Mets have concluded — because it seemingly took them a few months longer than most — that Tejada isn’t the answer at shortstop. Coupled with the designation for assignment of backup shortstop Omar Quintanilla, New York called up top prospect Wilmer Flores to try his hand at short.
The problem with this strategy is three-fold: 1.) Flores might be one of the slowest players in the league, making his range at short a significant question; 2.) Flores has seven errors in 24 games at shortstop in triple-A Las Vegas which is not exactly the portent of future success; and 3.) Many in the organization feel that, when Flores has stopped growing, his position will ultimately be at first base, which couldn’t be a more different position.
Given all of that, you can surmise that the Mets must really be desperate to get something, anything, out of this spot on the diamond. With Tejada hitting eighth, the Mets were essentially sending up two pitchers to the plate at the bottom of the order behind the struggling Travis d’Arnaud. Flores’ bat is his calling card, and New York is obviously hoping that his offensive proficiency outweighs his almost certain mistakes on defense.
Through 29 games, Tejada has a -0.8 WAR — being UNDER replacement level is a difficult feat to achieve. His .183 average and .207 slugging percentage are lower than a good number of pitchers in both leagues. Tejada’s defense hasn’t been terrible, but it also hasn’t been great either. In essence, if the Mets could find a lawn chair that moved laterally and could throw, the chair would be an adequate replacement for Tejada.
Whether or not Flores’ offense can offset his defense remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain; the Mets couldn’t keep running Tejada out as their everyday shortstop if they were indeed serious about 90 wins being this year’s objective.