Replacing Jose Reyes
With Jose Reyes out for an indefinite period, it’s time to discuss the possible replacements.
For those unaware, Reyes can not do ANYTHING while he is resting — he is to participate in NO physical activity beyond a casual walk. No jogging, no running, no throwing, no swinging a bat. He may not even be allowed to walk up stairs.
So, if indeed he is to rest for more than a week or two, it’s assumed the Mets will need someone to play shortstop for a month at minimum. Generally speaking, it takes only 2-3 weeks to get out of shape, and it can take as long as 3-6 weeks to get back into shape. Of course every individual is different, and we can assume that the fact Reyes was in top condition prior to this rest, he’ll get back into shape fairly quickly. But with his leg injury history, we’d prefer he take the cautious route, right?
So a temporary everyday shortstop must be found from within the organization — be it one person or a platoon of some sort. That’s the preference, anyway, since the merry-go-round of Wilson Valdez, Alex Cora, Anderson Hernandez, Angel Berroa, Ramon Martinez, Argenis Reyes and Fernando Tatis was ineffective and disruptive. The shortstop position is the second-most important on the field, and running auditions out there is not conducive to winning. In fact, it’s probably better to have one mediocre performer there every day over a length of time than five inadequate players rotating at the position. Too many other positions are dependent on the shortstop, and sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. How? Because even if you have, say, a shortstop with limited range to one side, the rest of the team can eventually adjust and adapt to that issue — assuming the limitation is consistent / dealt with every day. In contrast, if you have someone different playing shortstop every week, a team can’t figure out how to make up for the inefficiencies.
And unfortunately, because the Mets didn’t sign a backup infielder who could be a potential everyday shortstop like Bobby Crosby, Felipe Lopez, or Juan Uribe, they will instead have to find a solution among Alex Cora, Ruben Tejada, AHern, and Russ Adams.
We know what we get with Cora: great attitude, many years experience, good fundamentals, zero range, so-so arm, limited offense. He played through two major thumb problems but his thumbs had little or nothing to do with his limitations. With AHern we get good range and an average arm coupled with lapses in concentration and occasional mental errors; his offense has been inconsistent and at best he’s around an overaggressive .260 singles hitter with an OBP directly tied to his batting average. I liked the signing of Russ Adams back in January, and liking it even more now. Like Cora and AHern, his arm is a bit weaker than what you need from a legit MLB shortstop, but he’s otherwise a solid defender with good fundamentals and a hustler. In fact I would look at him as a younger version of Cora, who might produce just a little more with the bat.
The final candidate is Tejada, and the buzz is that Jerry Manuel will give him a long look. But don’t let his homegrown status cloud your feelings about Tejada — he is NOT a potential star. Defensively, he’s solid but unspectacular; he’s no Ozzie Smith, nor Jose Oquendo, for that matter, but he’s probably on par with AHern as far as raw skillset, though with a stronger arm. Offensively, he is really, really raw, with inconsistent, flawed hitting mechanics. I’m not saying this to be down on the kid, but rather to say he needs more reps and experience, and it shouldn’t be happening on the biggest stage in the world. If the Mets truly believe Tejada can be an MLBer some day, let him develop — physically, mentally, and emotionally — down on the farm. Should he be the Mets starting shortstop in April, he is just as likely to hit .150 as he .450. The latter would be wonderful, but the former could have a detrimental, long-term effect on his development — the kid is only 20 years old, after all. Why rush him when he’s not necessarily head and shoulders above Cora or Adams?
Bottom line is this: let’s hope Jose Reyes isn’t out too long, because none of the in-house replacements are acceptable over the long-term. If it turns out that Reyes will miss a significant portion of the season, the team will have to look outside the organization.