Mets: The Wilmer Flores situation has reached a tipping point

By Danny Abriano

If you’re not confident using your starting shortstop as a pinch hitter for your backup shortstop, is it reasonable to refer to your starting shortstop as such?

With one out in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 1-0 Mets loss to the Nationals, after Kevin Plawecki lined a double off the left field, Ruben Tejada came to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Tejada, hitting .190/.292/.286 so far this season, should have been hit for in that spot. The problem? That would’ve necessitated using Wilmer Flores.

After committing a crippling error on Thursday night and another error on Friday night, Flores was given both Saturday and Sunday off, with the Mets insinuating that he needed a mental health break.

Using Flores to pinch hit in the seventh inning would’ve meant inserting him at shortstop in the top of the eighth, something the Mets were clearly not comfortable doing – though Terry Collins said after the game that he would’ve used Flores as a pinch hitter in the ninth if it came to it.

The only relevant thing here is that Flores was not used when he should have been used, and that speaks volumes about the Mets’ current shortstop situation.

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While Sandy Alderson said on Friday that Flores has lots of rope left as the starting shortstop, the Mets’ actions over the last two days suggest otherwise. And the fact that Alderson audibly laughed this offseason about the idea of Ruben Tejada as the starting shortstop means that a move might have to be made in a matter of days.

Coming into the season, the concern about Flores was his range, which has been as limited as expected. The problem, is that along with poor range, Flores has been making errant throws, displaying poor footwork both on grounders and around the bag, been slow on exchanges on potential double plays, and has watched easy grounders bounce off his glove for errors. It’s not hyperbole to say Wilmer Flores at shortstop has been an unmitigated disaster.

It was written here and here and here (and many other places) that the Mets were making a huge mistake entering the season with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop, but they can’t go back in time and fix their mistake. All they can do now is correct the mistake before it costs them more games.

First, though, it needs to be pointed out again that this is not Wilmer Flores’ fault.

Wilmer Flores is not a major league caliber shortstop, and the fact that he’s being asked to be one is unfair. The fact that Flores is being put in position to apologize for his mistakes is unfair. The fact that Flores is getting booed by the home crowd – basically for playing out of position and not succeeding – is unfair.

Perhaps Wilmer Flores will snap out of the funk he’s in and start fielding every routine ball cleanly while firing perfect lasers to first base.

However, even if the above happens, Wilmer Flores will still not have enough range or good enough footwork to be an adequate defender at shortstop.

In Triple-A Las Vegas, Matt Reynolds – who scouts feel can be an average defender at shortstop – is hitting well and playing solid defense. Reynolds, who is not on the 40-man roster, should be who gets the call to replace Flores. The easiest way to add Reynolds to the 40-man would be to DFA Tejada and shift Jerry Blevins to the 60-man disabled list. In that scenario, Flores would serve as a bat off the bench.

It can be argued that the Mets lost two of their last four games due to middle infield defense, and they simply can’t allow this to go on for much longer. The season is far too important to mess around with.