In the first Phillies game of the series, Jonathan Papelbon entered a tie game–much to the chagrin of Mets fans everywhere. Prior to this inning, Papelbon sported a 0.82 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a 3.66 K/BB in 11 innings. Needless to say, the former-Red Sox closer had been rather machine-like in the “I’m going to get you out” category. Yet, little by little, the Mets offense chipped away. Then Jordany Valdespin came to the plate. In his previous six plate appearances, the 24 year-old rookie failed to record a hit. That changed with a quick crack of the bat. Valdespin lifted a three-run homerun–and his first career hit–over the right-field wall, putting the Mets ahead 5-3, and eventually resulting in an exhilarating win.
With Ruben Tejada out for an undisclosed amount of time, and the unpleasant near return of Ronny Cedeno, Mets fans instantly saw a new option at shortstop emerge. The only problem is that Jordany Valdespin is a horrendous defender (he made 32 errors there in 2011). Yes, he posted an awesome .294/.333/.468 line with 17 HR, 60 RBI, 69 R, and 37 SB in 2011, but seeing as that production might not translate to the Major Leagues, the Mets need a slightly more balanced and seasoned option assuming Tejada is out for awhile.
Enter Luis Valbuena. Valbuena, a former Mariners and Indians prospect, was never really given a true chance to start at the Major League level despite big Minor League numbers (.302/.372/.476 line with 17 HR, 75 RBI, 64 R, and 6 SB in 2011). The Indians sent him packing this past off-season, shipping him to the Toronto Blue Jays for cash. His tenure in Toronto lasted just four months due to a poor Spring, and the Chicago Cubs claimed the infielder off waivers in early-April. The Cubs optioned Valbuena to Triple-A–his fourth season at the level–but so far, Valbuena has shined. The 26 year-old has posted a magnificent .319/.396/.462 line with 3 HR, 12 RBI, and 21 R as the Iowa Cubs starting shortstop.
Valbuena’s glove-work isn’t as pristine as Tejada’s or Cedeno’s, but he has only committed 11 errors in 120 career Minor League games at shortstop. That’s a heck of a lot better than Valdespin–regardless of who has the better offensive ceiling. And before fans point to Valdespin’s “future,” he’s only two years Valbuena’s junior.
With Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro headlining the Cubs’ infield, there doesn’t seem to be room for Valbuena on their Major League roster. Considering the Cubs merely plucked the infielder off waivers, it would be hard to imagine them wanting anything noteworthy from the Mets in a potential trade. Also, when Tejada returns from injury, sliding Valbuena to the bench would be seamless–and would provide a far better backup option over either Ronny Cedeno or Justin Turner. More importantly, the move would keep Valdespin in Triple-A, where he undoubtedly needs more defensive seasoning.