In early November, assistant GM John Ricco said the front office was comfortable with a solution at shortstop consisting of Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada in 2016.
“We got to the World Series and [Wilmer Flores] and [Ruben Tejada] were a big part of what we did,” Ricco said at the GM meetings.
But the Mets are reportedly considering non-tendering Tejada this winter, which could mean the Mets have an opening on the roster for another shortstop.
First off, Mets shortstops were 10th in the league with a 2.9 WAR, largely carried by their offense as they were 26th in the league with a -9.0 ultimate zone rating and dead last with -26 defensive runs saved. That just needs to get better, and it’s hard to see that improving if they continue with what they have.
Second, Tejada will earn anywhere between $2-3 million through the arbitration process in 2015. Paying a below average defensive player with a .653 career OPS is hardly a value-oriented decision. They might be able to get similar, if not greater value out of Matt Reynolds as a utility infielder at the league minimum, saving the club upwards of $2.5 million and giving them an opportunity to allocate those funds in a more meaningful way.
Third, Tejada is coming off a second broken leg, and that could further impact his defense at a premium position and lowering his value in the process.
The question for the Mets becomes whether or not there is a replacement available on either the trade or free agent markets who represent a better value for that roster spot.
Asdrubal Cabrera is one player who has been mentioned at times in recent years, and according to a report from Venezuelen reporter Efrain Zavarce, the Mets are among five teams to express interest in the free agent shortstop this winter.
Including the Mets, Zavarce says the Yankees, White Sox, Royals and Angels have all expressed such interest in the 30-year-old shortstop.
Cabrera has always had decent power, which of course is his best asset. He doesn’t walk a lot and strikes out quite a bit as well, but he can be counted on for 25+ doubles and 10-15 home runs per season, making him a mostly league average to slightly below league average producer at the plate.
The problem is Cabrera’s defense. He can play both second base and shortstop, but he isn’t very good at either. He performed similarly to Wilmer Flores at shortstop this past season, which really wasn’t unusual for him considering his track record. Cabrera has trouble turning double plays, and for a team which struggled to do just that throughout the course of 2015, they should be endeavoring to improve upon that, and not maintain the status quo at best.
In the end, the Mets might be able to get similar value for less in Tejada. Yes, Cabrera hits for more power, but what he provides from a power perspective gets watered down quite a bit by his inability to get on-base and his sub-par defense.
That’s not to say the Mets should retain Tejada. And if they do let him go, the club must find someone who can at least backup Flores, if not challenge him for the starting role or take his job entirely. But replacing a bad value on the roster with someone who could conceivably be worse due to his salary requirements is not a cost effective measure to take when considering the position.