Make no mistake about it: Even though Miguel Tejada is a name player, he is far from the MVP caliber player he was seven or eight years ago. Tejada is no longer a potent power threat, who will drive in 120-plus runs and carry an offense. Those days are long gone.
But make no mistake about this: Even though Miguel Tejada is not the player he once was, he's still an asset. Tejada has transformed himself into a shortstop, whose game centers around his ability to play everyday, hit for a high average, and hit lots of doubles.
What's that combination worth on the open market? Let's take a look.
The Case for Tejada
He can still hit
Once you get past the idea that Tejada can no longer hit for power, what you see is a hitter, who can still be very productive. His .309 batting average ranks 12th in the NL, he's second in the NL in doubles, and his 154 hits rank second in the National league. In addition, Tejada hits well against both lefties (.292) and righties (.314). The bottom line is simple: Tejada is still an asset at the dish.
Since 1999, Miguel Tejada has played in at least 158 games in every season with the exception of 2007. That consistency is remarkable. And this season, Tejada has played in 122 of the Astros' 124 games, which is a very impressive feat when you consider that Tejada is 35 years old. At some point, the wear and tear will take its full effect on Tejada, but for now, the idea that Tejada will be in the lineup everyday has to be reassuring for prospective suitors.
The Case against Tejada
According to fangraphs, Tejada's UZR/150 this season is an abyssal -9.8. Why has Tejada's defense been so bad? Fangraphs also notes that Tejada's range has massively declined this season to the tune of a -10.3 ranking, which is a huge drop from last season. Can a contending team survive with Miguel Tejada playing shortstop? Debatable. Could it finally be time to move Tejada away from shortstop?
The most telling sign that Tejada's power is evaporating lies directly in the stats. Tejada only has 10 home runs in 2009, even though he's playing in one of the most hitter-friendly stadiums for a right handed power hitter. Any team that decides to go after Tejada needs to avoid paying him like he's a middle of the order power hitter that he once was and gauge his value on the open market accordingly.
The free agent class of shortstops is a weak group. Aside from Tejada, the only other free agent shortstop, who could make noise on the open market is Marco Scutaro. True, Scutaro is younger than Tejada and is having a career year in 2009, but the advantage to signing Tejada is that he has a consistent track record of production and success. Who would you prefer?
(2 years/$12 million)
Here are some comparable contracts:
Edgar Renteria (2 years/$18 million)
Orlando Cabrera (1 year/$4 million)
Alex Gonzalez (3 years/$14 million)
Julio Lugo (4 years/$36 million)
There is a very realistic possibility that Tejada will only get a one-year pact on the open market, especially if the market plays out like it did last year. However, he is still a productive player and I feel that in the right setting, Tejada could be a very valuable piece to have around. While I would be hesitant to give a multi-year contract to a player over 35, Tejada has shown plenty of life over the past two years to make me at least think about it. In the end, I think Tejada will get something along the lines of a one-year deal with a option or a two-year contract, simply because he still brings a lot to the table.
(Follow Jorge Says No! on Twitter!)