The shortstop situation with the Mets – and it is a situation – is taking on a life of its own. Ruben Tejada has more errors thus far this spring than hits, and regardless of what the reason is, he appears lost both physically and mentally. Behind Tejada, the Mets don’t have a legitimate starting shortstop option in the organization. Between now and Opening Day, an acquisition needs to be made.
After two seasons of poor performance – the most recent littered with conditioning concerns, work ethic questions, and injuries – the Mets made it known to all who would listen that Ruben Tejada was not their choice at shortstop for 2014 and beyond.
No matter what your feelings are regarding the mode in which the Mets criticized Tejada, the fact is that going forward with him shouldn’t be an option.
As is noted above, the Mets don’t have a starting shortstop option in-house at any level. Omar Quintanilla is below replacement level, Anthony Seratelli is a career minor leaguer who will be a utility guy in the event he makes the club, Wilmer Flores can’t handle the position defensively, Wilfredo Tovar doesn’t have the necessary offensive chops, and Gavin Cecchini is years away from contributing at the major league level.
In order to solve the shortstop problem, the Mets will have to go outside the organization.
Before continuing, I’ll point out that the Mets don’t “owe” the fans anything. However, you can’t state that winning 90 games is an expectation while entering the season with Ruben Tejada – someone you bashed all offseason and you have riding the pine lately during spring training – as your starting shortstop. That doesn’t jive.
In other words: if the Mets want to be taken seriously, they need to find an external replacement for Ruben Tejada before the calendar flips to April.
In order to acquire Tejada’s replacement, the Mets likely have two options. The first is signing free agent Stephen Drew, whose agent Scott Boras is still living in an alternate universe when it comes to his idea of his client’s worth. The second – which is the route I would go – is using one of their many young starting pitchers in a trade that imports a shortstop. In order to acquire the shortstop they desire, the Mets will probably have to deal one of their young starting pitchers.
Complicating things for a bit, the Mets were given a scare yesterday when Jonathon Niese departed his start early. However, his MRI came back clean and he’s already been cleared to resume throwing.
It’s true that you can never have too much pitching. At the same time, you have to be willing to deal from a position of strength if you want to fill areas of need via trade. With Niese in the fold, the Mets’ starting pitching depth chart looks something like this: Jonathon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jenrry Mejia, John Lannan, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.
Even if the club shifts both Lannan and deGrom to the bullpen, they’re still eight deep in the rotation. In 2015, the rotation will be bolstered further by the return of both Jeremy Hefner and Matt Harvey and the advancement of additional pitching prospects.
Simply put, the Mets have more starting pitchers than spots to fill at the major league level. Yes, if three or four of them suffer serious injuries it’ll change things. However, you can’t refuse to make moves out of fear of the unknown.
The Mariners are dangling shortstop/second baseman Nick Franklin (who the Mets have been scouting) and are looking for young starting pitching in return. The Diamondbacks have an excess shortstop in Didi Gregorius and a new-found hole in the rotation with ace Patrick Corbin expected to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Athletics, who may look to deal Jed Lowrie before he hits free agency after the season, just lost starting pitcher Jarrod Parker – who will soon undergo his second Tommy John surgery – for the season.
The Mets need a shortstop, multiple teams have high upside shortstops they’re willing to deal, and the Mets have the necessary pieces needed to entice those teams to act. Something’s gotta give.