Injuries to David Wright, Ike Davis, and Jose Reyes were hardly what the doctor ordered for the Mets this season. It’s hard not to wonder what could have been for these Amazin’s with their infield at full strength. However, the injuries have already proven to be a blessing in disguise. Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Ruben Tejada have seen increased playing time in the stars’ absence, and each has exceeded expectations.
Nonetheless, each has his flaws, as well as an uncertain role in the future of the Mets. And so the question lingers: Do any of them fit into the long-term plan?
Sandy Alderson’s decision to demote Tejada to AAA after Reyes’s return just foreshadows the tough decisions the GM will face if the young infielders continue to perform. Of course, this one was relatively easy; Tejada’s bat had cooled significantly, and the Mets wanted him to play shortstop on a regular basis — since there are no guarantees that number seven will occupy that spot in 2012.
Still, the decisions may get harder. Tejada, Murphy, and Turner have different skill sets, but they inevitably get in each other’s way. Tejada is the best defensive second baseman of the three, but right now is the weakest hitter. Murphy is the worst defensively — he’s slightly better at first and third base than at second — but looks like a doubles machine at the plate. And Turner falls somewhere in between in both categories.
Ideally, Reyes re-signs and the Mets build around him, Wright and Davis. But if the Mets do pay up for Jose, they won’t have the money to do much building at all this offseason. Tejada, Murphy and Turner will all be eyeing the second base job.
This situation would create competition, allowing Terry Collins to plug in whichever player — or combination of players — works best, much like he has this year. However, if Reyes walks, the outlook becomes much different. Instead of just competing to plug up one hole, the trio would be challenged to prove it can carry much of the burden in the coming years.
All three youngsters are perfect for an overachieving-but-still-.500 team, and I’m pleased with the way they’ve stepped up. But is their ceiling high enough to rejuvenate the middle of the infield as well as the Mets’ franchise? Or is it just high enough to keep the team afloat until the cash flow returns and the “real” prospects reach Flushing?
Murphy and Turner are both 26, so it seems unlikely that they will get that much better than they are now. Turner is no David Wright. Tejada is no Jose Reyes. And I don’t see Murph ever becoming an everyday second baseman.
That said, my hope is that Tejada becomes a consistent line-drive hitter and base-stealer; that Turner develops more power and becomes a 20-90 guy; and that Murphy works hard on his defense, adds some power, and remains with the team as a super-utility, injury fill-in man. If Reyes and Wright stay on board, only one or two of these things will have to come to fruition to round out a sparkling infield.
For now though? There’s no telling what the future holds.