Opening Day for the New York Mets is less than one week away, and all signs point to Ruben Tejada being the starting shortstop. Perhaps, this is only by default, but does he have what it takes to be an everyday player?
Wilmer Flores will begin the 2014 season in the minors. The Mets are unlikely to sign free agent shortstop Stephen Drew unless his asking price drops. Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin and Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius are under their radar, but trade talks are stagnant.
Tejada will be a starting player by default, but not because he earned the job. In 2013, he posted an abysmal 202./.259/.260 slash line in an injury-shortened 57-game season. According to Baseball-Reference.com, his WAR was -0.9 and dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) was -0.4. He hurt the team both at the plate and on the field.
No one expected Tejada to completely fill Jose Reyes' shoes in 2012. It was his job to lose. His .289/.333/.351 offense was somewhat promising, but Tejada only played 114 games due to injury with no speed and pop. 2013 proved he is injury prone.
Between the past two seasons in which he had virtually no competition, Tejada has not been durable, but he is not a player who spends a lot of time on the disabled list, yet is outstanding when healthy. Tejada's ceiling is not high, and his floor is quite low.
Spring training does not help his cause. Despite attending fitness and conditioning camp in the offseason, he missed games early in camp due to hamstring problems, and he played poorly once he was ready.
Tejada has had a horrendous March with four errors, sloppy defense and mostly looking lost at the plate. His current spring training batting average is .205, but he even hit .091 at one point.
If the Mets were ready to contend, they would not go into this season with uncertainty at shortstop, first base and in the bullpen. The front office does not seem willing to part with its third-round draft pick for Drew or a top pitching prospect for Gregorius or Franklin.
As of now, Tejada has not proven to be a reliable glove, and he could be an automatic out in the lineup. If he was just one of a couple of weaknesses in the lineup, Tejada would be under the microscope. But he plays in New York where the offense is weak.
Tejada still has an opportunity to silence his naysayers, but Flores could rise to the occasion if he has the opportunity. The Mets can still make a move.
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