Entering the season with Wilmer Flores at short would leave Mets vulnerable

By Danny Abriano

Shortly after the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer, general manager Sandy Alderson said that their focus would shift to their other main area of need: shortstop.

Since then, Alderson has publicly downplayed the possibility that the Mets would upgrade at shortstop, although much of what Alderson says in public about potential player acquisitions should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Whether you take Alderson at face value or not, with three days until the new year begins, Wilmer Flores is still the player who is penciled in as the starting shortstop for the 2015 Mets. And that’s a huge problem.

With Wilmer Flores, the Mets have a player who was moved off shortstop four years ago because every scout who watched him came to the same conclusion – that Flores didn’t have the range to play shortstop in the majors. Nothing changed this past season during Flores’ brief audition at shortstop. He fielded the balls hit right at him, but his range was poor.

If the Mets do indeed go into the 2015 season with Flores at shortstop – something that would be a slap in the face to fans who have been waiting for this team to be good for the last six years – they would be gambling that Flores’ range either miraculously improves or for him to hit so much that his defensive shortcomings become a footnote. Neither of those occurrences is likely.

Beyond that is the fact that the Mets don’t have a legitimate fallback option at shortstop if Flores’ defense is as bad as they thought it was four years ago when they moved him off the position. Could the Mets possibly go into 2015 – a season where they expect to contend for the first time in seven years – with Wilmer Flores at shortstop and no solid option behind him?

During the Winter Meetings a few weeks ago, Terry Collins suggested that the starting shortstop job would be up for grabs in spring training between Flores and Ruben Tejada. The next day, Alderson audibly laughed at the idea that Tejada would start at shortstop for the 2015 Mets. Alderson’s reaction about Tejada means that at the moment, their fallback option should Flores fail is a player their general manager laughs at in public.

Matt Reynolds will likely be at shortstop for Triple-A Las Vegas, but he has the same defensive shortcomings as Flores. Reynolds’ likely double play partner, Dilson Herrera, is not viewed by the Mets or any scouts as someone who can handle shortstop.

Gavin Cecchini will be at Double-A Binghamton at some point in 2015, but he’s probably at least a full year away from contributing in the majors. Shortstop Amed Rosario, who may be the Mets’ top prospect at this time next year, is probably three years away from the majors.

What are the Mets to do?

As has been the case since the season ended, the Mets need to either sign or trade for a shortstop who profiles as a starter and can provide at least adequate defense. Gambling with Flores while having zero legitimate options behind him would leave the team extremely vulnerable.

The Mets need to swing a blockbuster trade for Troy Tulowitzki. Or they can trade for either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor of the Mariners. Or they can pry Addison Russell away from the Cubs. Or they can get on the phone and engage teams on shortstops who may not be publicly available but who are certainly available for the right price.

No one is saying that Sandy Alderson should give up every asset the team has in order to find a legitimate shortstop. At the same time, he can’t hide behind the idea that it’s too hard to find a shortstop in the current market.

Putting the Mets in position to win is Alderson’s job, and leaving the team without a legitimate starting shortstop heading into the 2015 season would mean entering a supposed contending year with a potentially huge problem.