Decisions Pending

By Rich Sparago

Things have been going well for the Mets. They’re 22-15 since June 16th, the day Kirk Nieuwenhuis slugged a walk-off home run against the Cubs. The “feel” of the team has been much different in the past 6 weeks, due in large part to personnel changes on the team. Eric Young Jr. is playing left field and leading off. Juan Lagares, though he has been with the team since May, had been playing more regularly and has now won the every day job in center field. Josh Satin has been a strong contributor at first base. However, the Mets will have to make decisions on Lucas Duda (rehabilitation in the Gulf Coast League) and Ruben Tejada (completed rehab, now in AAA).

May 29, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Lucas Duda (21) doubles to deep left allowing two runners to score during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mets won 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Duda has not been performing well in his rehab games (0 for 4 yesterday). This will not impact his return. The bigger question is what the Mets will do with Duda when his rehab is complete. Because of the contributions of Young and Lagares, it’s hard to fathom Duda returning to the outfield. The outfield experiment with Duda has seemingly come to an end, and that’s in the best interests of the team. So does Duda become the left-handed half of the first base platoon? Does Ike go down? Does Duda simply become a bench player, filling in at first and the outfield when necessary? Is Duda a suitable bench player, due to his defensive limitations? Duda likely can’t be traded, because of his recent injury. Another option would be to simply assign him to AAA, though that may be hard to justify.

Tejada has been performing well at AAA. He’s hitting .322 with an .374 OBP. But it’s hard to forget his .207 average and .267 OBP before his injury. It ‘s also hard to forget his lethargic play, and inconsistent fielding. His replacement, Omar Quintanilla, is hitting .225 with a .313 OBP. While that’s only marginally better than Tejada’s offense, Quintanilla has established himself as a reliable shortstop, and someone who hustles on every play. Does Tejada come back as the starting shortstop? If so, does Quintanilla go down, or replace Justin Turner as the utility infielder? Does Tejada become the utility infielder, displacing Turner? Turner has not done much to cement his role with the team, batting .265 with a .309 OBP. Or, does Tejada stay in AAA, so there isn’t a disruption to a winning formula?

May 16, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada (11) throws out a St. Louis Cardinals base runner at Busch Stadium. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

One more consideration is Jonathon Niese. The Mets are already going with a 6-man rotation, and the starting pitching has been very good. The 6-man rotation makes sense, since the primary objective is to conserve innings for Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Does Niese replace Carols Torres? Does Torres go to the bullpen? Whom does he replace? Scott Atchison? LaTroy Hawkins? Finally, can Niese really perform at the major-league level with a partially torn rotator cuff?

The trading deadline is 4 days away, and that may factor into some the decisions the Mets will make. One way to make roster room  is through trades. In any event, there are some interesting decisions on Sandy Alderson’s horizon. I’m very interested to see how he manages the roster crunch. I’m also interested in your thoughts. Let us know in the comments section.

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