During Wednesday night’s broadcast, Gary Cohen suggested the Mets were keeping their options open, not concentrating on one particular position in their trade targets. Meanwhile, as Sandy Alderson was open to anything, Mark Trumbo was dealt. This is not to suggest that Alderson should have been in on Trumbo. It’s just to point out that deals are being made for MLB quality players. The idea that teams don’t want to trade now is simply not true.
It’s fun to come up with trade proposals to help the team. If only our GM felt the same way. Whether it’s Alderson’s stubbornness to deal prospects or other teams consistently trying to hold him up in deals – remember when the Diamondbacks wanted Noah Syndergaard for Didi Gregorius? Ha! – the one thing we know is true is that we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for a big deal involving the Mets.
So, instead of waiting for the cavalry to come via trade, we’re left exploring internal options. The good news is that both Travis d’Arnaud and Dilson Herrera will be playing rehab games in Hi-A St. Lucie beginning Thursday, June 4. Losing David Wright was a big blow symbolically; losing d’Arnaud was a bigger blow, production-wise. It’s wonderful news that he may be back with the Mets in a week or so.
But that still leaves the problem of what to do in the infield. Essentially, the Mets are playing three guys out of position as they wait to find out the timetable for Wright’s return. It’s likely that either Wilmer Flores or Daniel Murphy would have made the plays at third base Wednesday Ruben Tejada was unable to that instead became errors. Too bad Murphy was at 2B and Flores was at SS.
After an ugly first month in the field, Flores has settled down and made the routine plays, which was the hope coming into the year. Unfortunately, his offense has not been anything to make people happy. Yes, he’s run into a bunch of homers, which has made him an acceptable player overall the first one-third of the season. But it’s next to impossible to be a big offensive help when you bring a .277 OBP to the table.
Meanwhile, Tejada has been an offensive surprise – in a good way! – so far this year. In the limited sample size of 79 PA, Tejada has an .830 OPS. Even the biggest Flores supporter would admit that Tejada is likely a better defensive option at shortstop. So, if he’s the better defender and the better hitter, shouldn’t he play the position, regardless of who lines up at 2B and 3B?
In 2015, Tejada holds an .830 to .692 edge in OPS over Flores. Now, this is mostly the result of a hot streak for Tejada. In his last six games, he has 13 hits and a 1.172 OPS, thanks to a .542 BABIP. No one expects that to continue. But, Flores has hit safely in 17 of his last 20 games, so let’s not pretend he’s in the middle of some big slump. There’s something to be said for the guy who goes on a hot streak and puts up a four-digit OPS, like Tejada is doing right now. In Flores’ current hot streak he has a .693 OPS.
No one has ever confused Tejada for a good hitter. He has a lifetime .653 OPS. He may never have another six-game stretch as productive as the one he just completed. Tejada is the type of guy who you play and he won’t embarrass you out there but you’re still looking for an upgrade.
But here’s the thing. Essentially you can sub “Flores” for “Tejada” in the above paragraph and it’s still pretty much true, perception aside, as plenty of people have confused him for a good hitter, failing to take the appropriate air out of his PCL numbers.
But Flores essentially has the same lifetime OPS in the majors as Tejada, checking in with a .651 mark. His best six-game stretch this year produced a 1.174 OPS. Since he stopped botching easy plays on defense, Flores hasn’t been an embarrassment out there. And the Mets should be looking for an upgrade.
When Herrera returns, the Mets should play the rookie at second base and move Murphy over to third. And they can mix and match Flores and Tejada at short, generally playing the hot hand but playing Flores when extreme fly ball pitchers are on the mound, and also subbing in Tejada in the late innings of close games he did not start. No one’s ever confused Tejada for an iron man, so days off would be a good thing.
For a guy here for his bat, let’s start demanding playing time for Flores based on him hitting above a league-average SS. If we’re supposed to ignore Tejada’s current six-game streak because it’s out of character, let’s do the same thing with the six-game streak of Flores mentioned earlier. If we do that he has a .229/.252/.359 line for a .611 OPS in 163 PA this year. Tejada without his six-game streak has a .641 OPS. Baseball-Reference currently has the average NL shortstop with a .709 OPS this season.
The hope is that by riding the hot hand, the Mets end up with better overall numbers from the two-headed monster at short than they could get from either one individually. It’s not ideal; it’s making the best of a bad situation. Of course, Alderson could pull the trigger on a deal for a two-way player at shortstop and make all of this moot.