The New York Mets look to have their first winning season in six years in 2014. Many say the signing of free agent shortstop Stephen Drew to replace Ruben Tejada will help fix one of the glaring holes in the Mets struggling lineup. I say not so fast.
Last season the team finished third in the National League East with a 74-88 record, but did show signs of life thanks to the continued success of All-Star third baseman and team captain David Wright, the emergence of pitching ace Matt Harvey and debut of top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.
The loss of Harvey to Tommy John Surgery will certainly hurt, but the additions of former Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon and former New York Yankees’ outfielder Curtis Granderson should help keep the team competitive. With a surplus of good young pitching in the farm system the Mets certainly appear to be on their way back towards relevancy. However, there still are some glaring holes in the Mets lineup, most notably at first and shortstop.
Drew recently played for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and is believed to be seeking a multi-year contract of about three or four years for about $10+ million. I say not so fast, I still am a believer in Tejada. Let’s take a look at the two players.
At 31, Drew is in his prime, but has yet to be the star he was thought to be when he came up in 2006 for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tejada, on the other hand, is only 24 and has only one full season of major league experience.
2012 was Tejada’s first full year in the majors and was given what seemed like the impossible task of replacing All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, who signed as a free agent with the Miami Marlins, Tejada played in 114 games, hit for a .289 average while having an on base percentage of .335, making 8 errors in that time. While not the base stealer that Reyes was, Tejada is fleet of foot and provides a decent glove. After the 2012 season, the Mets felt like they had their long-term answer at shortstop.
Last season Tejada completely fell apart, playing in only 57 games. Tejada hit for a horrible .202 average, a .259 on base percentage, and made 12 errors in that short amount of time. After getting hurt against the Yankees on May 29th, he did not appear again for the Mets until September 11.
The answer remains to be seen which Ruben Tejada the Mets will have this coming season. Will it be the 2011-2012 Tejada who showed a lot of promise? Or will it be the 2013 Tejada who looked like a shell of his former self. Last season, Stephen Drew hit for a .253 average last season with an on base percentage of .333.
Outside of the power numbers (HR’s, RBI’s, slugging percentage) Drew’s career high numbers are about the same as Tejada’s. Drew’s career high batting average was .291, which came back in the 2008 season. His highest OBP was .352 (discounting his rookie season) back in 2010, a mark he has yet to even come close to duplicating. Why would I sign someone for much more money for the same production I can receive for a player currently on the team, at a much cheaper price as well?
With his reported demands of a multi-year contract combined with an opt-out clause after the first year, it’s difficult to see why the Mets would want to sign Drew. The class of free agent shortstops next season will likely be better anyways with All-Stars like Hanley Ramirez, and J.J. Hardy available to sign. At such a young age I’m not willing to give up on Tejada just yet… especially not with Ramirez and Hardy potentially waiting.
While first base has also been a big problem for the team each of the past two seasons due to an under performing Ike Davis. Many believe, as I do, that the Mets can solve the problem at first base internally. If Davis, or Lucas Duda fails to produce at the position, fans believe the team’s current second baseman Daniel Murphy, a natural corner infielder, should man first, while Eric Young Jr. replaces Murphy. But the glaring weakness at shortstop continues to plague the Mets.
I think the Mets have potential, without Drew, to break the .500 barrier and even compete for a wildcard.
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