In The Hole At Short: What’s The Plan For 2014?

The 2003 season saw the Mets struggle from start to finish. It was Art Howe‘s first year with the club, and it was one to forget. One of the bright spots was a 19 year old named Jose Reyes. As we know, Reyes began to flourish with the Mets, and became the everyday shortstop for the Mets until 2011, minus 2004 when he shifted to second base for the “Japanese Superstar” Kazuo Matsui. Reyes was a spark-plug for the Mets, and may be the greatest shortstop and leadoff man the team has ever had.

May 27, 2013; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada (11) completes the double play as New York Yankees shortstop Jayson Nix (17) slides during the sixth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

He was a tantalizing figure, looking like an All-Star at times, at other points struggled at the dish (2007 collapse) and towards the end of his Met tenure seemed to be off of the field with injury rather than on it. Coupled with the Wilpon’s lack of  funds and his injury-prone body, Sandy Alderson did not pursue him, and let him walk in free agency after the 2011 season. That allowed the Mets young farm-hand Ruben Tejada to get a chance at short everyday, instead of filling in.

In 114 games last year, Tejada, hitting mostly in the leadoff spot, batted .289 with a .333 OBP. He posted a solid 2.0 WAR for the Mets, an above average shortstop, although not something like Jose Reyes. While he did not hit for much power or produce much speed at all, Tejada played mostly solid defense, posting a 0.9 UZR, good for 15th in the league, one spot better than Reyes.

With Tejada only going to be 23 in 2013, many felt after an improved 2012 season, he would deliver even more in 2013. He had an auspicious start to 2013, showing up a little bit later than Terry Collins expected and wanted. Regardless he was in the opening day lineup, and promptly recorded two hits. Take that, Terry. It looked like a promising year for the young Panamanian. However, things have not turned out that way.

In 50 games this year, Tejada only hit .209 with a .238 BABIP. His OBP wasn’t been much better and was at .267. A demotion seemed imminent, but instead, Tejada went on the disabled list when he injured himself diving for a ball against the Yankees in May. A trip to the DL saved him a trip to Vegas, or so many thought. He was given some time to rehab, and many felt he’d regain his spot after that time. While many felt that way, including Ruben, the front office and Terry Collins have not been so high on him. He’s been called “lazy” and “entitled” by many.  With his attitude and poor play to start the year, the Mets have left him in Triple-A in favor of Omar Quintanilla. The move seems to either be a message to Tejada to step it up, or that they are just not sold on him.

If it is a case of the latter, what can the Mets do? They are only a few pieces away from contending, and having a solid shortstop is a must, especially to anchor down the middle infield defense. Many fans want the Mets to look inward, but the Mets top prospect at the position is Gavin Cecchini, who is in Brooklyn and only 19 years old. Clearly a few years away. So if the Mets are trying to contend in 2014 and 2015, and they are not sold on Tejada, it seems a player outside the organization is the best bet. Many people have thrown around names. Here’s a breakdown on some potential and maybe not-so potential shortstops outside the organization.

August 19, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew (7, right) completes a double play as San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8, left) slides into second base during the fifth inning at AT

Stephen Drew

The brother of former Major Leaguer J.D. Drew is currently playing for the Boston Red Sox under a one year contract. Thus far in 2013 he’s hit .249 with a .328 OBP. He has pop for a shortstop, with a .407 slugging percentage in his career, but has a very high strikeout rate striking out a little over a quarter of the time this season. He would not be a bad pickup for the Mets, but might be the most expensive option this off-season. He’s the top shortstop in the market and going to look for top dollar. With the Mets potentially going after two outfielders, he may be a reach.

Jhonny Peralta

This is an interesting player for the Mets to get a look at. In any other circumstance, Peralta might be valued higher than Drew. However, Peralta was linked to Biogenesis, and was suspended for the remainder for the 2013 season. He is finishing up his three year deal with Detroit, and may cost a lot less than anticipated because of the suspension. Peralta has had an up-and-down career at the plate, but is a .268 career hitter with a .330 OBP. Like Drew, he has some pop for a shortstop, with a .425 career slugging percentage. In his 10 seasons he has compiled a -2.4 UZR in the field, but was in the positive range the past three years. If he can come back next year at a good value, he might be the type of player Marlon Byrd has been this year for the Mets: a steal. While Byrd’s 2012 was atrocious, the point is Peralta could possibly provide a value for the club at short.

Aug 9, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (13) hits a double off of St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal (not pictured) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. Chicago defeated St. Louis 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Starlin Castro

Two years ago many felt this would never happen with the hype Castro had with the Cubs. With an uncharacteristic 2013 and a plethora of potential prospects behind him, Castro might be on the way out with a good deal. In his four seasons in the bigs he’s produced a 7.6 WAR. Despite a .249 average this season, he’s had a .285 career average .730 OPS, and a very high .325 BABIP. Although it may cost the Mets some prospects, this would be an interesting trade. I would not deal a pitcher like Noah Syndergaard, but for the right deal, he might be worth it.

Jose Reyes

The last person that many fans have mentioned is this former Met. After 2011 and his deal with the Marlins, it seemed all was lost with Reyes. He had a solid year for the Marlins, but was dealt to Toronto this off-season in Miami’s annual fire sale. Many expected that Reyes and others could lead the Blue Jays back to glory. It hasn’t been that kind of year for the Jays, and they are toiling in last place of the American League East, the only team sub .500 in the division. He’s signed through 2018, but many feel the Blue Jays may deal him. I find it hard to believe that the Mets would make a play at him, but crazier things have happened. Toronto might not even be willing to ever be trading partners with the Mets ever again after the stole Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard for RA Dickey this past off-season. It seems Reyes is a pipe dream of Mets twitter.

2014 will be an interesting year for the club and what direction they take. Will they make a splash this off season in a weak free agent class or trade for players? Or will they stick to their players, and allow Tejada to get another shot at age 24? It’s a tough call that a lot of diligent thought must go into.

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Topics: New York Mets, Ruben Tejada

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  • Rich S

    Nice job, Andrew. Clearly the next SS will come from outside the organization. Tejada committed the worst sin possible when he decided he didn’t have to hustle. Good for Terry to hold Tejada accountable for that. In my mind, he should never see Queens again. It’s one thing to occasionally dog it when you’re talented. Tejada shouldn’t because he isn’t.

  • scott s

    what about J.J. Hardy? if the o’s move machado to short than hardy would be available

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