Lost in all of the fan outrage over the handling of Juan Lagares is a bigger, more obvious question. Why is Ruben Tejada still the New York Mets‘ everyday shortstop?
Is it because he’s hitting? No, that’s not it. Tejada has a slash line of .190/.309/.229. That last number is his slugging percentage. It’s hard to find anybody with 105 at bats that has a lower one. Is it because of his defensive wizardry at short? Nope. Tejada has -1 defensive runs saved and three errors, the latest of which cost the Mets two unearned runs on Sunday. His range has been average at best, and he’s been sluggish when starting double plays and turning them. In fact, the Mets are near the bottom of the league in turning twin killings, and Tejada is a big reason why.
All of these factors are why the Mets decided to recall Wilmer Flores from Triple-A Las Vegas. He’s big, not very mobile, and profiles more like a corner infielder, but he’s hit at every level of the minors with extra-base power. He participated in an offseason fitness program that made his range at short passable, according to scouts, which is just about the same as Tejada’s right now. He made eight errors in Vegas, but if he can hit the way the Mets think he can, he would still bring more value to the shortstop position than Tejada.
The Mets intended to use Flores as their starting shortstop, but when he went down with the flu, Tejada stepped in and showed some improvement. In his first five games back in the lineup, Ruben hit .294/.429/.412, and looked more comfortable in the field. Manager Terry Collins then declared that Tejada was his everyday shortstop again. Since then, Tejada has gone 0-for-8, and has looked bad in the field. If he’s not effective on offense or defense, what value does he bring to a Mets team that’s struggling to score runs?
Further, bringing up a prospect like Flores only to have him ride the bench doesn’t make sense. Wilmer Flores has to start every day at shortstop. Even with his fielding flaws, he could provide the Mets with a spark in the lineup. At the very least, he’ll probably slug higher than .229.
The Mets have seen enough of Tejada to know what he is going to be. It’s time to give Flores an extended look to see if he can help this team in any way. And if he can’t, the Mets will know they have to look outside the organization for a shortstop.