Mets rumors: No excuse for starting the year with Ruben Tejada at short

Christopher Pasatieri

Okay, maybe one excuse.

Ruben Tejada's a utility player.

Let's just get that out there.

He's a decent fielder, but his bat below average when he's at his very best. Basically, he's Jamey Carroll without the gnarly-Guillermo del Torro-prop hand.

Both of those guys have posted .294 wOBAs since 2011, but Tejada has the slight edge in wRC+ with 86 -- Carroll has put up an 85 over the last three seasons.

Unless Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was kidding when he said he thought his team could win 90 games, he probably shouldn't head into the season with a guy that was 52 percent worse than the rest of league at hitting last season.

If Alderson was kidding, then that's a pretty good -- albeit mean -- excuse for running Tejada out there everyday. But if he legitimately thinks his team can win in 2014, there's no excuse for him to stand pat with the plurality of preferable options available to him.He could try targeting some unforeseen candidate to replace Tejada, but the market is littered with talented shortstops at the moment, and Alderson has some ammunition for a potential trade.

Then, of course, there's that one free agent ...

Stephen Drew

This move obviously makes a lot of sense, but the Mets just don't appear willing (or able) to spend the money it would take to land Drew. They'd only have to give up their third-round pick, since their first is protected and they forfeited their second by signing Curtis Granderson. Their draft budget would take a hit of less than a million dollars, which is much more significant than it sounds, but still a small collateral price to pay for a huge upgrade at short. And if there's no doubt about Drew being a huge upgrade over Tejada. He's a better defensive shortstop, and his career ISO is about three times what Tejada has been able to put together. The Mets can't really use Drew's injury history against him if they're comparing him to Tejada either. He showed up to camp this spring out of shape, and the team is less than pleased about it.

Drew fits the Mets well, but they are still in the process of recovering from the Bernie Madoff debacle, so a significant contract might be what keeps them from signing Drew.

Nick Franklin

The Mets have said they intend to scout Franklin this spring to see if he's a fit. Save your time, Sandy. He's a fit. Even if Franklin can't stick at short, which is still up for debate, he would be a solid long-term option at second base. His bat projects to be an asset -- at least, for a middle infielder. New York would have control over him until 2020, and the 23-year-old isn't far removed from being named one the Mariners' top prospects. He posted a career batting line of .287/.360/.459 in five seasons in Seattle farm system, and he showed flashes of what made him a name to watch in his short run with the M's last season. He finished the year at .225/.303/.382 with 12 homers and six stolen bases, but not everyone can erupt into veteran form right out of Triple-A. If he can figure out left-handed pitching, he might be a special bat, even if he has to move to second.

The Mariners would likely start the trade talks by mentioning Noah Syndergaard. After Alderson stopped laughing, the two sides could begin actual negotiations.

Brad Miller

Miller has shown more promise in the field and a similar batting line in the small Major League sample sizes available. He hit .265/.318/.418 in 76 games and played pretty well at short. However, the Mariners appear more willing to move Franklin, so the Mets would likely have to part with too much to land Miller. Rafael Montero would probably be enough to get Jack Zduriencik listening, but in the end, Franklin is clearly the more likely trade candidate.

Didi Gregorius

Kevin Towers has been kind of a patsy on the trade market this winter. He unloaded Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton for Mark Trumbo, and then went back to Rick Hahn for more when he traded third baseman Matt Davidson for Addison Reed and his career 4.17 ERA. Now he's said he would consider moving one of the shortstops competing for the starting job in Arizona. Gregorius, the D-backs' return from the Trevor Bauer/Shin-Soo Choo trade last winter, was solid in the field in 2013 and managed a respectable .252/.332/.373 batting line in over 400 plate appearances. Towers mentioned a backup catcher and an outfielder as potential targets in a trade, but said his focus would be "more catching and [a] Double-A, Triple-A type starter." To be fair, he use the terms "top-notch" and "upper-end" when describing his targets, but if he enters into discussions with the Mets, he isn't going to get Travis D'Arnuad or Syndergaard for Gregorius.

Chris Owings

Owings drew some lofty praise from Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks in his organizational rankings for the Diamondbacks. John Sickels gave him a "B" grade in his rankings, citing Owings' potential for some "speed and power contributions" and "solid glovework." The 22-year-old hit .330/.359/.482 with 12 homers and 20 stolen bases in Triple-A last year. Pretty promising, but as you can probably tell, his on-base percentage is heavily reliant on his batting average, which means he could struggle to make a consistent impact offensively. It might be harder for Alderson to pry Owings away from Towers than it would be to land Gregorius, but Kevin Towers has made stranger deals. Too bad the Mets don't have John Buck anymore, he hits homerzzzz, right?

Star-divide

Alderson won't be able to acquire any of these players without giving up something of value -- money or prospects, depending on the situation -- but he isn't likely to consider moving D'Arnaud or Syndergaard. Those two players could be important parts of the next actually good Mets team, and even if Sandy thinks his club can win this year, he'd be foolish to hedge his bet by giving up one of them for the good, but not great options available at the moment. But he'd be just as foolish to stick with Ruben Tejada as his everyday shortstop.

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