Spring Training is an interesting time when it comes to evaluating what you see from certain players. Some players are usually more advanced than others at the beginning of camp, and hitters are usually ahead of pitchers, who are trying to throw their way into form. We’ve seen plenty of players shine in camp that fizzle when the games matter most (Butch Huskey is the most notable one that pops to mind for me), and we’ve seen plenty of players do bupkiss in camp, but play at an All-Star level during the season.
However, there seems to be something different about the struggles of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada this spring, and all of it feels very foreboding.
Tejada hasn’t limited his struggles to one side of his game. He’s made a litany of fielding errors – both mental and physical – and has looked rather over-matched at the plate. His most recent on-field bumblings led Kevin Burkhardt, Keith Hernandez and Bobby Ojeda to have a discussion in the booth mid-game if all of Tejada’s problems are in his head, wondering out loud if he’s even capable of rebounding from this.
If Tejada continues to be a problem instead of a solution, the Mets have a serious problem at shortstop. Behind Tejada, the team has Anthony Seratelli – a switch-hitting utility infielder with a great story, but who hasn’t played a single game above AAA – and Omar Quintanilla, who was replacement-level for the Mets last year. Terry Collins is going to experiment with one of the Mets top-hitting prospects – Wilmer Flores – at short, but he hasn’t played there full-time since 2011, and is widely seen as too slow for the position. There’s also Wilfredo Tovar, an all-glove shortstop that has impressed in the Minors, but the team has already moved him to Minor League camp.
Enter Stephen Drew.
This is a conversation we’ve had before, and it’s one that will continue to be pertinent until there is resolution. The difference in this conversation between now and then is the Mets vocal desire to win 90 games this year and make the playoffs. If those are your standards for success this season, then it does make a difference to overpay for a player if it means an additional 2.0 WAR, which is the general difference between Ruben Tejada and Stephen Drew.
The Mets know what they are comfortable with. They’d sign Stephen Drew right now if he agreed to a one-year, $9.5 million contract. That’s been established. Drew also knows what he wants, which is a multi-year deal and something that gets him close to the $14.1 million payday he turned down from the Red Sox.
The pressure seems to be rising in New York to get a deal done as well, with the Atlanta Braves so easily breaking open their purse to sign Ervin Santana after learning of Kris Medlen‘s need for a second Tommy John surgery. Beat writers and radio personalities are wondering allowed how it’s possible a team viewed as a mid-market team could spend $14 million on a player, but the Mets can’t squeeze out something similar.
Something’s got to give. When, I’m not certain. But, if the Mets want to sell 90 wins as a realistic goal to their starving fan base, they have to sign Drew. Ruben Tejada is not the shortstop the Mets need.
And he’s not likely to ever be that player anymore.