As many of you know there are a few people for whom I have a great deal of disdain for what they do while wearing the Mets uniform. Leading off, of course, is Terry Collins, but today my thoughts are not about the underachieving manager. Prior to this season my wrath was often directed at Eric Young, Jr. for how little he brought to the table. Beginning in 2013 and continuing throughout 2014 I had even less favorable things to say about the man who would be shortstop, Ruben Tejada. He fields adequately and is effective at the plate when he doesn’t swing. He can’t run and has no power. I wondered aloud why they kept playing him when alternatives existed (paging Wilmer Flores!)
Today I come here, however, in praise of Señor Tejada and what perhaps new hitting coach Kevin Long has done to elevate his offensive game to a new level. He has 10 RBIs this spring and is hitting more like a middle of the order threat than a pitcher. Isn’t it ironic, therefore, that if not for injuries, this season is the one in which he would find himself out on the outside looking in while Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores got the starts every day?
Instead the team finds itself starting the 2015 season with injuries to both middle infielders. Neither are expected to be long term issues, but missing anywhere from a week to a month is not beyond the realm of possibility. However, until Monday it looked as if Tejada would still be shut out of a starting role as rookies Matt Reynolds and Daniel Muno have performed even better than he has. Reports came out earlier this week indicating that the likely alignment is Tejada at SS, Reynolds at 2B but Muno now fighting Eric Campbell for that 25th position on the roster with John Mayberry, Jr. and Kirk Nieuwenhuis taking the roles of 4th and 5th outfielders respectively.
The other major injury trouble this year came when Josh Edgin was lost for the season with Tommy John surgery. I won’t go through the litany of thus-far failed attempts to find a successful lefty from among the contenders of Dario Alvarez, Duane Below, Sean Gilmartin, Darin Gorski, Jack Leathersich and Scott Rice. Not surprisingly Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson are once again not on the same page as the manager has said he can start the season without a lefty and Alderson says that’s unlikely to happen.
Perhaps the most prominent name bandied about as a solution to the lefty reliever quandary has been the Orioles’ Brian Matusz, a strikeout power pitcher who has, upon conversion to the pen, proven to be capable against lefty hitters. The problem thus far has been the sticking point of salary. He makes $3.2 million and the Mets feel that’s too rich for their still Madoff-infused blood.
The solution to me is fairly simple if each team is willing to consider it. Send Ruben Tejada to Baltimore where he challenges underperforming prospect Jonathan Schoop for the 2B starting gig alongside mainstay J.J. Hardy at SS. Schoop had nice spring numbers in 2013 and 2014, but struggled mightily in his major league career, posting a career average of .211. He’s hitting just .243 this spring and whispers out of Baltimore is that they’re losing confidence in him.
Completing this trade brings the salary delta down to just about $1.3 million as Tejada is set to earn $1.88 million this year. If you got the Orioles to kick in about $500K, then it becomes a rather palatable $800K to bring in a solid lefty reliever for the 2015 season.
The good thing is that it doesn’t leave the Mets bereft of middle infielders either. Dilson Herrera will still play 2B every day in AAA. Wilfredo Tovar can play SS for the Las Vegas 51s until Murphy and/or Flores heal and the reinforcements can return to the desert.
Does that sound like a workable plan and fair deal for both sides? Who hangs up the phone if that was the offer on the table?