Mets still without backup shortstop as Ruben Tejada demoted

Earlier this week, Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada completed his rehab assignment and was promptly optioned to the Mets AAA affiliate in Las Vegas. It was not a shocking development since Tejada clearly had issues with performance. There have also been rumblings that the Mets were unhappy with his overall conditioning when he arrived at Spring Training this year, and Sandy Alderson went so far as to say Tejada was not considered a part of the core of the team moving forward.

The Mets clearly believe Tejada still has work to do in Las Vegas to get to the point where he can again contribute to the major league team. However, whether or not you think Tejada is a starting shortstop at the major league level or that he should back up Omar Quintanilla, there remains a question about the Mets’ roster choices regarding the position: why do they continue to go without a true backup shortstop?

There have been three players to start for the Mets at shortstop this season: Tejada, Quintanilla, and “super-sub” Justin Turner. At the end of Spring Training the Mets made the curious decision to include outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the roster at the expense Quintanilla. The reasoning probably had something to do with the state of the outfield and their (questionable) belief that Turner could man the position on days that the starter needed a day off. So far, Turner has started a total of three games at shortstop and the starters have gotten little rest.

Even if you agree with giving your starting shortstop ridiculously little rest and that Turner should ever play there, what do you do if Turner gets hurt? Well, he’s been on the disabled list since mid-June and there’s yet to be a viable backup shortstop on the roster since. If Quintanilla gets hurt mid-game the team is in a precarious position. Sure, David Wright can swing over to the position in a pinch and you can plug in either Josh Satin or Daniel Murphy at third base, but is that even remotely an ideal solution?

Beyond getting regular rest for your starter, Terry Collins is limited in late-game substitutions and pinch hitting. For instance, he can’t pinch hit for Quintanilla in the late innings because there is no one who could realistically replace him in the field. You’d certainly hope to avoid plugging Jordany Valdespin there again.

Obviously the injury to Tejada has made the situation complicated even if he were relegated to the bench, but it’s not like the team doesn’t have options. Brandon Hicks has been doing a fine job at shortstop in Las Vegas this year and, though he is not currently on the 40-man roster, calling him up would immediately strengthen the position. Maybe a trade is in the works? Whatever route they choose, it’s a position that really should be solidified in the short term and Turner is not the answer.

For a front office that seems to value up-the-middle defense as much as the Mets’ does, it’s particularly puzzling that they’d go more than half of the season with shaky depth at shortstop. Quintanilla has been doing an admirable job for the Mets for as long as he’s been with the team and has earned a starting job. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get hurt or need a day off.

3 comments for “Mets still without backup shortstop as Ruben Tejada demoted

  1. NormE
    July 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Rob, I agree that the way this roster has been constructed is a puzzlement. Valespin should be sent down to play everyday. Yes, bring up Hicks and give Quintanilla some time off.

    Of course, this brings up the related issue of player overuse. We have seen it for years with the way bullpen arms get burnt out. Now we are seeing it with Buck and Quintanilla. If TC is doing this out of desperation to try and win, thus keeping his job, Alderson should do something to stop it. Or, is it part of some plan by Alderson which none of us mortals are privy to?

  2. Metsense
    July 7, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Right now JV is the backup SS and has 146 minor league games at the position. JV is fortunate to still be on the major league roster because it would serve the Mets and JV better if he was getting starts in LV as a middle infielder. If JV has any future in the big leagues it is as a backup middle infielder who is versatile enough to play the OF. His .710 OPS in 2012 profiles best for that role and his power and speed is an asset as a bench player. Right now he needs to go down and find his swing but the other problem child is already doing that in LV. Playing Quintinilla into the ground is foolish so the only alternative right now is to put JV out there once in awhile.
    The Mets right now have an NL average SS in Quintinilla with a 99 OPS+( which is higher than any single season that Tejada posted) but his pedigree indicates that he will not be able to sustain it. SS is a position the Mets will likely need to upgrade this off season.

  3. Jerry Grote
    July 8, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Classic mangling by the Mets on roster management/player development. For some reason, this team has no concern as to whether or not a player understands how to play SS, or 2B, or LF, or CF, or 1B.

    Most recent example? Getting Satin – who has ONE PROFESSIONAL GAME on his resume – to practice the OF. Just what the hell does that accomplish? Are we in the business of training players at Citi on how to play the field?

    Turner at SS. No backup. No difference. We can always play Buck over there if we need to.

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