A case for Ruben Tejada

Ruben Tejada, Miami Marlins' Juan PierreMets General Manager Sandy Alderson held a news conference with beat reporters Sunday night where he prepped everyone on the idea that Ruben Tejada may very well be the opening day shortstop.

A new shortstop is on just about every Mets fan’s wish list this holiday season, but there really isn’t a pressing need for a change.

While you should always take the opportunity to upgrade, given the Mets’ limited budget, there’s not really any available options that offer a significant upgrade from what Ruben Tejada already gives.

While both Stephen Drew and Jed Lowrie have 3.5 WAR seasons in their careers that Tejada has never achieved, Tejada’s affordability and upside trump Drew and Lowrie’s.  And yes, I’m talking about the same player who hit .202/.259/.260 last year and produced -0.3 WAR.

There are absolutely no signs that Tejada’s lack of production from his 227 plate appearance sample last year is sustainable.

At first glance, Tejada’s .228 BABIP jumps off the stat page, and stands out even more when you look at Tejada’s batted-ball profile.  Using Beyond the Boxscore’s Slash12 formula, Tejada’s xBABIP last year was .314, more in line with his BABIPs from 2011 and 2012, which were .331 and .339, respectively.

In AAA, Tejada’s BABIP normalized to .316, albeit in the hitter’s paradise that is Cashman Field.

Some, including our own Brian Joura, like to point to the frequency with which Tejada hit the ball in the air last year as part of the reason for his decline and bad season, and granted his 34.1% fly ball rate was the highest Tejada has had since his rookie season in 2010.

It did seem that Tejada was getting under a lot of pitches, but the numbers clearly show that he was unlucky in the small sample size of last season.

It is likely that given enough playing time in 2014, Tejada’s BABIP will stabilize to an above .300 level and that he can return to his .280/.345/.340 form with good defense.  If he can do that – and stay healthy – that production is more than enough for someone at the bottom of the lineup.

While Tejada’s upside is probably only that of a 3.0 WAR player, and as I mentioned earlier, Drew and Lowrie have already eclipsed that threshold in their careers, the cost to bring in one of those players would be too great.

Rather than trade Ike Davis for a shortstop, getting a lefty platoon mate for Chris Young would help the team more.  The same can be said for spreading out the remaining money available – which now figures to be $12 million – on several upgrades to the bullpen and bench rather than on one free agent.

And if it means sticking with your 24-year-old shortstop who has shown that he is a good contact hitter, so be it.

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Joe Vasile is the voice of the Fayetteville (NC) SwampDogs and the host of “Ball Four” on WTSR in Trenton.  Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.

18 comments for “A case for Ruben Tejada

  1. John Zakour
    December 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    See I don’t care about affordability. I’m a fan. I like to see my team spend money. I think we may have to live with Tejada if he doesn’t swing for the fences he could be decent. We did win our last series with a shortstop who had a 0.6 bWAR. Still that 86 team had way less holes than this one.

    • Joe Vasile
      December 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Fair criticism, but I don’t think that Tejada is as bad as many of us think. Way too soon to give up on him.

  2. Chris F
    December 9, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    My idea idea of a case for Tejada is a suitcase…and its pre-packed even with a little Mr Met Bobblehead as a “thank you” for services rendered.

  3. steevy
    December 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Let’s go through the Tejada negatives.No power.Little speed.Doesn’t get on base .Get’s hurt every year.Last year we found out that he doesn’t work hard either.Ain’t all that great defensively either.

    • Joe Vasile
      December 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Well apparently he’s been at some kind of athletic training facility this offseason with Lucas Duda, and the team is pleased with his work ethic. Perhaps his stint in the minors last year was a wake up call and he’s turned it around. Perhaps with getting another year older and stronger, Tejada can eclipse a .100 ISO this year (and yes, I realize that that’s a low target to set). As far as his on base issues go, he has had average-to-above-average walk rates in his past, and even posted a .360 OBP in 2011, so I’m not that concerned just yet about that. For a guy who is going to be the 7 or 8 hitter, Tejada is a nice player. I know it’s hard to remember since it seems like he’s been on the team for a long time, but he’s only 24, and should progress and get better. I’m not ready to give up on him just yet.

      • Chris F
        December 9, 2013 at 5:08 pm

        I think what we need to realize is that we have guys that, while we like and show promise occasionally, would be bench guys on a post season team. For reference, ex GM Jim Bowden said that Murph is a bench player on a competitive team. Murph is 100x better than Tejada.

        Comments like “should progress” get less and less likely as his MLB career gathers time. Tejada is a AAA player in reality. I believe we Mets fans have to sever the love we have for the guys we root for and realize until we dump most of the people we have with better players, 90 loss seasons will be standard fare. Who is every day MLB level you ask?
        Wright, Granderson, Harvey, Niese, Gee, possibly Wheeler (should know by ASG), possibly Lagares (should know by ASG), possibly d’Arnaud (should know by ASG). Thats it. Everyone else is a minor chip in the game.

        • Jerry Grote
          December 9, 2013 at 5:36 pm

          Jim Bowden is an idiot.

          Guys that consistently can hit 40 doubles, play reasonable keystone defense, put up 750+ OPS and 2-3 WAR for $5MM a year … guys that are among the top 10 players at their positions … no to mention, are lefties … are NOT bench players.

          I’d happily go into next season with Grandy, Wright, Murph, Duda/Satin and Lagares as five of my long term solutions and start to work on the other three. That, right there, is a strong base from which to work.

          If you think DarNo is a bit better than league average, you only need one more, really really good player and you are extremely competitive with any team in the NL.

          • Chris F
            December 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm

            Im ok with Murph, but the article is about Tejada, who is not an every day guy at this level.

            Murph is a defensive liability, and a considerable one, despite his bat. You are far more bullish on Duda/Satin than me, but I guess we will find out this year. Lets just say there doesnt seem to be a huge desire to acquire either Duda or Davis out there. I think Lagares and d’Arnaud have this year to find out if either can hit MLB pitching at the required levels. I surely hope so. I also think we are further than 1 player away that the group we already have.

            • Jerry Grote
              December 10, 2013 at 8:39 am

              Mmm. Don’t overstate my optimism on 1B. I think we will be pretty close to 740 out of Duda/Satin (and frankly Dykstra).

              And remember, there isn’t much demand for Duda/Davis because of supply and demand. In my field we call it a “crowded trade”. Teams can do better, for less, than probably what Sandy is trying to get back.

              After all, would you sign James Loney for a pretty consistent, league average-ish 1B and then trade your SS for quality pitching … or pick up Duda/Davis for that same SS, get a HUGE standard deviation in productivity?

              • December 10, 2013 at 8:50 am

                Loney is seeking 3 years for 27 million. I would rather see a Duda/Davis/ Satin platooning combination. Signing a free agent like Loney in this years over-priced market is not the answer.

                • Chris F
                  December 10, 2013 at 9:05 am

                  Or trade Gee and a pitching prospect for Mark Trumbo. The Angels are desperate.

  4. December 10, 2013 at 12:40 am

    If the Mets had a normal budget for a big city market would the team be trying to upgrade at shortstop? Absolutely! So the team is willing to bite the bullet simply because Reuben will make about 1/10 of what Drew is looking for. I too would rather see them spread whatever remaining funds they have left to secure a veteran back-up catcher and a bat to compliment Young in the outfield. Then again if the mets are able to improve themselves via a trade then you have to do it. You can always move Tejada to second base.

  5. Metsense
    December 10, 2013 at 7:54 am

    The Mets still have two offensive holes, SS and CF. The best one should expect from Tejada is a bounceback to 2011 ,which is still slightly below average offensively. If the Mets upgrade the OF with a better offensive player than Lagares then the Mets can start Tejada. I prefer upgrading SS over CF because what Lagares does defensively. If the Mets want another 74 win team then they will stick with Tejada.

    • Chris F
      December 10, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Yep, and hes now who he is at the plate. Lagares gets his chance to see of the bat can reach acceptable levels. He killed DWL this year, but thats not against tough pitching (on the flip side, Puello looked like hell in DWL).

      I keep saying Stockholm Syndrome…

  6. December 10, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I don’t think Tejada will be the culprit if the team only wins 74 games again next season. After all how many at-bats did he have last season? This team at best is a 500 ball club. As for the upgrade where is the money going to come from? The team still needs a veteran back up catcher, another reliable arm in the bull pen(Perez?), a low rental starter, and the remaining utility players. Drew is waiting for a better offer than what has received from Boston. That no one has signed him speaks volumes.

    • Jerry Grote
      December 10, 2013 at 9:15 am

      I agree, Pete. It’s not Tejada, in isolation.

      You have a manager that committed roughly 15% of the teams at bats to guys that couldn’t hit. He got a new contract. The GM needs to give TC a group of players that at least can’t f**k up.

      I’ll give you two guys. Pretty sure they didn’t cost a draft pick, didn’t require the acquiring teams to give up talent.

      2013: 31 HR
      2012: 43 HR, or a total of 74 HR
      2011: 37 HR, or a total of 121 HR.

      They cost the signing teams $5.75MM this year. These two guys, all they do is come to the park and hit for power.

      Last year’s squad was a lesser version of Minaya’s teams. ABs wasted because we didn’t spend enough at the bottom end of the talent pool.

      PS: Kelly Johnson, and Garrett Jones. The Mets had 10 … TEN … players with an OPS less than 615 that got significant enough ABs.

      And you have a GM that is literally willing to go to war next season putting one of the worst of the offenders in at 2B.

      You could have a defensively limited 2B that put up a 542 OPS last year, and give him 500 ABs. The alternatives to him is a guy with a 519 OPS but he’d play league average defense. Are we even marginally aware of what is coming out of Sandy Alderson’s mouth here?

  7. December 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I know it’s not a breath of fresh air! Being able to double talk and not say anything at the same time is truly a gift. I honestly believe that re-signing TC was a directive from the top and not SA’s choice in the matter. Talk about a dysfunctional family!

  8. Patrick Albanesius
    December 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    If the Mets were in contention for the playoffs in 2014 I’d be crying for a new shortstop, but they aren’t. Why should the Mets spend dollars they clearly don’t have to get a marginally better shortstop for 2014? Instead, shouldn’t they see if Tejada can return to being a productive player, and spending that money later on?

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