New York Mets News

Ruben Tejada as Mets starting shortstop in 2015?

By Rich Sparago

Can Ruben Tejada be the Mets’ starting shortstop in 2015? That’s preposterous, right? Is it?

The first two months of the offseason have come and gone, and the Mets have not imported a shortstop. Yes, there are two months until spring training games, and the Mets have been tied in rumors to Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Miller, and even Stephen Drew. But nothing has happened. And nothing really seems close, as Sandy Alderson reportedly thinks more of his trade chips than other organizations think of them. So where are we now?

The Mets claim they’re happy with Wilmer Flores. Flores clearly has promise as a hitter, having hit .251 with 6 home runs and 29 RBI over 274 plate appearances in the majors in 2014.

Flores also posted a .288 OBP and a .685 OPS over the roughly half-season of plate appearances he got. Fangraphs projects that Flores will hit .248 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI in 2015, which would make him a respectable offensive shortstop.

Then there’s the defensive side of the equation. It’s no secret that there are concerns about Flores’ defense. While in the minors, he was removed from shortstop by the organization over concerns that he could not play the position in the major leagues. His DRS last year at shortstop was -3 (albeit in a small sample size).

If Flores is the starting shortstop, it will at best be uneasy for the Mets. The shadow of doubt over his defense will loom large. So, let’s play out a scenario.

If Flores has a bad spring defensively (remember last spring when Ruben Tejada had more errors than hits at one point?), will the Mets succumb to fear and install Tejada at shortstop on Opening Day?

Self-fulfulling prophecies can be very powerful. There is precedent here, let’s not forget. Last year, Flores was the shortstop until he had a few bad games, and then Tejada was right back in there. Do you think that can happen again? If you don’t, you may be kidding yourself, especially with Terry Collins‘ strangely positive feelings on Tejada.

There is a divide among the fan base on Tejada. To his credit, he hit .289 in 2012. However, he followed that with a .202 average in 2013 (and a demotion), and a .237 average in 2014. Tejada provides neither power nor speed, and his defense, while steady, is not stellar (UZR/150 of 1.8 over his career as a shortstop, along with a DRS of 3 last year).

If Flores struggles and the Mets revert to Tejada (which I think is quite likely), the Mets will be right back to approaching a season with a substandard shortstop. The problem, is that 2015 is supposed to be the first season since 2008 where the Mets contend.

All of the above is predicated on the Mets not acquiring a shortstop this offseason. This speculation may be rendered moot by a trade or free agent signing. Many think that the scenario above will not happen, that it will not be allowed to happen. I’m not convinced. I think it’s a very real possibility, and that’s concerning.

What do you think will happen at shortstop if no acquisitions are made?