The Mets’ Ambivalence Towards Ruben Tejada Opens Door For Flores

Of all the young New York Mets, the one I am most interested in seeing is Wilmer Flores, especially at shortstop. While Ruben Tejada is the starter by default, Flores has a legitimate shot with a strong spring to grab a job.

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

As the Mets monitor Stephen Drew’s interest and Seattle for Nick Franklin’s availability, it is clear they aren’t sold on Tejada. That makes it no better time than now for Flores to surface.

As team officials continue to portray Tejada as the most likely starter on Opening Day, they acknowledge those two other possibilities and are showing a declining enthusiasm for the incumbent.

A hot spring from Flores could make things interesting if the Mets don’t make an acquisition, especially if he shows something defensively.

The rap on Flores is he doesn’t have the first-step quickness in moving laterally. He also doesn’t have a lot of speed, but shortstops don’t have to be fast. Flores attended the same Michigan fitness camp as Tejada and reports are he improved his straight-ahead speed and lateral quickness.

However, for the offensively-challenged Mets, Flores’ upside is greater than Tejada’s. Flores drove in 13 runs in 27 games last season, which projected over a 162-game schedule is 78 RBI. In contrast, Tejada’s 162-game average is a mere 40.

In addition, as a spray hitter, Tejada’s career on-base percentage is only .323 and his 162-game average is 87 strikeouts.

Flores played shortstop in the minors until 2011, but because of the range issue, the Mets started playing him at third, second and first. All this begs the question: With all the ways prospects are measured, couldn’t they have figured out his range limitations?

Flores’ value to the Mets would be to show something at shortstop, because he is a man without a position and despite his supposed offensive abilities, never hit more than 18 homers (2012) in the minors.

His best season was at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2013 when he hit .321 with a .357 on-base percentage, 15 homers and 86 RBI.

As the Mets consider Drew and Franklin – neither is imminent – this is the perfect time for Flores to make a statement.

Although Flores has experienced every position in the infield, shortstop is the one with the most potential for a breakthrough. Barring injuries, he won’t supplant David Wright at third or Daniel Murphy at second this year.

Who knows what could happen at first base? I floated the idea last year they might cut loose both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda and go with Flores at first base.

That’s not imminent, either.

 

8 thoughts on “The Mets’ Ambivalence Towards Ruben Tejada Opens Door For Flores

  1. HOOboy. A guy with no position who doesn’t look all that good as a hitter is the latest candidate for shortstop. What’s next? Satin? How about Murphy? the. Mets must lead the league with SS so so hitters that have no position- Duda,Satin,Lutz,Flores.

    • Actually he looks very good as a hitter. If given a chance I would say he can be the third best hitter on this sorry team.

  2. This really reminds me so much of the debate about Daniel Murphy playing 2B in Feb/March 2009. The Mets downplayed Murphy’s ability to play 2B, because they were stubborn with sticking with the mistake of a long contract they gave to Castillo, after he had a terrible ’08. In fairness to Castillo, he did have a decent ’09 season, so putting Murphy back out in LF (where he was arguably worse than Duda) made sense, until he took over at 1B when Delgado was out for the year and Jerry Manuel started to realize that Murphy at 1B and Tatis in LF was better than Tatis at 1B and Murphy at 1B.

    Here we have Ruben Tejada who the Mets publicly try to keep supporting. Is it genuinely for Tejada’s potential? Perhaps. But it is more like public relations for a consolation prize to not being willing to pay out on Stephen Drew. Now I am not advocating for giving Drew 3 years when no other team is offering it (which is exactly how Minaya gave Castillo, Bay and Oliver Perez their contracts). Nor am I even advocating a 1 year deal, with a player option (although that may not be the worse thing if the money weren’t that high). But a 1 yr deal at the 14MM figure he wants, or a 2 yr deal at 20-22MM, is reasonable. Like with the Granderson negotiations which debated 3 or 4 years and 15 or 16/17 million per year, the Mets will need to find a middle ground with Drew. Alderson is probably just waiting for a team like Minnesota or Houston to make a real 1 year offer above 9.5MM (that Mets offer) or a 2 year offer (Boston and the Yankees might have earlier in the off-season, but probably pulled it back). This waiting strategy Alderson is using isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is risking Tejada, Quintanilla or Flores as the starting SS on Opening Day. Is this really what we want? That is Boras’s argument and the argument has some leverage. So long as Drew’s staying in shape and is healthy and Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Houston do not acquire better SS options, I don’t see how his 1 year/9.5MM value goes down. If this is how Alderson wants to play it, then testing Flores out at SS in Spring Training is a very good idea. If he is hitting and playing against mediocre defense, it lessens Drew’s market value.

    Comparing Satin to Flores at SS is not a fair comparison. Granted I do find it a bit comical that only a month or two ago people said Flores is a future 1B because of doubts of his ability to play 2B at the major league level, yet now people think he can play SS because he is in better shape. If the Mets were not that interested in Emilio Bonifacio’s SS abilities which are better than Flores’s, will they seriously consider Flores as a SS? I doubt it. But if they do, it is more likely to be short term. Even if they weren’t satisfied with his defensive abilities at SS, if he is hitting well, they can move him to 2B and trade Murphy at the deadline (if we aren’t contending) or next off-season. Or we could move Murphy to 1B if neither of Davis or Duda are cutting it. Plus, if Flores were the starting SS (which he actually does have experience playing, even if it was a while ago), Tejada will still be there for depth (and Quintanilla for that matter too). 2014 is really make or break for Ike and Tejada with the Mets. If they suck again, the Mets don’t have much need for them here.

    • If I remember correctly our multiple personality coach had a hard on for Castillo. Murphy got better at second when we cleaned house and got rid of the cancer that was the Omar regime and our former 2b schooled him on the fine art at playing the position.

      I doubt Flores can play ss because the team moved him off that position, but if he can play an adaquate ss and his bat sings it gives us options. It would give Ruben to get his head in the game and an opportunity for the team to see a promising hitter at this level. I would like to see Drew here at one year and 10, but it seems that won’t happen. I had looked up Bonafacio and it seems he has degraded quite severely as a player and no longer hits.

  3. As for Satin, I don’t think the Mets ever see him as a regular every day player. Only a platoon or bench player. Him being in that role as the right-handed bat off the bench was why they didn’t want to pay Justin Turner $800,000-1 million this season (even though it probably would have been worth it). The expectation is probably that Tejada or Quintanilla will be the back-up SS (Tejada if we sign Drew or trade for Franklin or one of the ARZ’s prospects, Quintanilla if Tejada is starting). Even though Flores might be a better bat off the bench, DH option against AL team and a back-up 3B to Wright, Flores probably won’t be on the bench as a reserve given his potential and young age. Just like even though den Dekker is better defensively and probably offensively than Andrew Brown or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, he is more likely to be in AAA.

    With Eric Young Jr., the Mets are at least affording him the flexibility to play himself into a full time role, if Ike and Duda flop (Murph shifts to 1B with EY. Jr. at 2B) or to out-compete Chris Young (much more likely in my opinion than Lagares). Than going into next season, I’d expect a 3 way competition between den Dekker, EY Jr. and Cesar Puello for RF (or den Dekker in CF and Lagares shifting to RF).

    • The team should give Flores a chance. He is young and can hit. Our team sucks. Why can they not make room for himsomeplace? We hve 2 legit players at third and second. We talk up Granderson who will play right or whatever. Half the infield is up for grabs. He needs to be put out there so he can hit.

  4. Sandy Alderson is doing many of the things that I hoped a GM for the METS would do. Build a great farm system. DOn’t cripple the team with bloated contracts of players who are overvalued and underproduce. Trading guys for prospects to keep the pipeline full!! Drafting high ceiling players and focus on building power pitching.

    The next phase that I am hopeful to see the METS do a good job with is to not have so many question marks about what position a player should play whether it be in the minors or majors. I think this year will go a long way to remove some of those question marks. It will be an interesting spring!!

    • HScott: Agreed. It could be a fascinating spring. To get where the Mets really want to be, you’re right, they have too many questions with their position players, notably: catcher, first base, shortstop and center field. That’s too many holes.-JD