A few weeks ago, I claimed that Ruben Tejada‘s time with New York was done. His rather putrid offensive and defensive numbers had been improving only slightly by that article’s publishing and there was no realistic indication that those improvements were going to stay. He had rebounded to have a few nice games, but for the most part was still stumbling to reassert himself as the everyday shortstop. I therefore thought he should go. It is time to reassess that claim.
Since May 11, Tejada is sporting a remarkable .284/.400/.418 slash line. He’s even hit two home runs during that span, which all Mets fans know is about as rare as a bases loaded knock these days. His BB% and K% both stand at an even 15%, which are above his career numbers, but his BABIP is a very average .321. If there is anything to complain about with Tejada, it’s that he has a paltry 9 RBI over the past month. Driving in runs has been a common problem with seemingly every Mets hitter though, so Tejada can certainly be forgiven for not carrying the offense workload.
Another area of some concern is Tejada’s defense, which still isn’t great. He has a UZR/150 of -4.3, but he’s only committed 3 errors on the season, which isn’t bad even when considering that he’s been sharing a good deal of playing time. Tejada’s size and speed will always keep him from being a rangy shortstop, but considering the defense he’s been giving the team lately, I think most Mets fans would take what he’s giving in a heartbeat.
So I was quite wrong by saying that the Mets would be better off without Tejada, and I apologize. Whether it was Wilmer Flores‘ presence, or if he just had an epiphany of how to play the game again, he has improved drastically lately both offensively and defensively. Is that improvement sustainable? Those elevated walk numbers probably won’t be, but a better average could be around to stay. Flores still offers better offensive potential, and since he hasn’t proven a liability in the field, deserves the chance to continue playing at shortstop. Tejada is making it tough for that to happen, but the Mets shouldn’t be complaining.
Of all the position battles that have occurred this year, two players performing well at the same post has not been the norm for the Mets. Lucas Duda won his job almost by default. Anthony Recker will most likely be the starting catcher because of Travis d’Arnaud‘s demotion. Meanwhile, Chris Young has Juan Lagares‘ hip, and Eric Young, Jr.’s legs to thank for playing everyday. Tejada is really the one player to see a challenger and win a job.
Tejada is important to the Mets in another way. This team is filled with call-ups and aging veterans, but Tejada is the only player on the team who spans that gap. He’s still only 24, but already has just shy of 400 games under his belt. If the Mets can afford to let anyone ride out a hot bat and hope for a career turn-around, it’s Tejada. He’s played well enough to earn that time.
If Tejada continues to play at this level, it is easily conceivable that Flores could be send down in order to get regular playing time in Las Vegas. Fans can only hope that the fire we’ve seen in Tejada doesn’t evaporate with his competition. We all know that he has been good before. The question is whether this play is an aberration, or if this is a return to the kind of player we hoped for after letting a franchise player go. By the All Star break, we might have our answer. Maybe Tejada will keep making me eat my words.