Sandy Alderson has been cryptic this offseason in regard to what he is going to do about the shortstop position. On the one hand, he hinted at signing Stephen Drew when he stated that he would be open to signing any free-agent on the market. However, he also said he believed that Ruben Tejada could be the Mets starting shortstop, and could handle the position as a regular.
It’s been confusing, because sometimes we have been led to believe that the Mets will make some kind of upgrade at shortstop. Other times it appeared that Tejada is going to be the shortstop. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to Aldersons thoughts, so I don’t know what his strategy is. Maybe he is trying to avoid creating pressure to make a short-term move. Maybe he’s waiting it out, so that the price will come down on Drew. This is all conjecture, but those are a couple of reasons why Alderson may have been evasive about his plans for shortstop.
Tejada was terrible last season as he hit a line of .202/.259/.260 in 57 games, and had a -0.3 fWAR. There was nothing pretty about Tejada’s performance in 2013. However, we shouldn’t be too quick to write him off. He only played 57 games in 2013, and in both 2012 and 2011 Tejada performed well as the Mets starting shortstop.
Here are Tejada’s 2011 and 2012 stats
2011: .284/.360/.335, BABIP .331, wRC+ 99, fWAR 1.6
2012: .289/.333/.351, BABIP .340, wRC+ 93, fWAR 1.8
There are a couple of caveats when looking at these stats. In both of his successful seasons he had a BABIP that sat around the .330-.340 range, which is a little high and not sustainable. Obviously, we saw Tejada regress back to the mean in an extreme way in 2013 with a BABIP of .228. Tejada was really lucky in 2011 and 2012, and then was really unlucky in 2013. Tejada’s BABIP will be higher next season; it won’t be abnormally high but it should be closer to his true talent level.
The other worry about Tejada is that a lot of his offensive production relies on his ability to make contact. His walk rate over the past two years has been between 5-6%. He can draw some walks, but he’s not known as a passive hitter. If he’s going to be somewhat productive with his bat, he’s going to need to hit at least .260. If he hits any lower the Mets might as well look around for another replacement level scrub.
Expecting Tejada to be the player he was in 2011 and 2012 is unrealistic. Assuming that he’s going to be as bad as he was in 2013 is assuming too little of him. Tejada looks like he will be a slightly below average shortstop. The steamer projection system has him hitting a line of .260/.317/.339 and producing a 1.7 WAR. That’s not an exciting projection, and it indicates that Tejada is not a long-term solution. However, it does indicate that Tejada is not the worst possible option, and that he can play the position in the event that the Mets don’t bring in a new shortstop.