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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. gary s. March 12, 2010 at 3:02 pm
    joe, it is beyond belief that due to reyes’s illness that we could start 2010 with the same 3 man rotation that we ended 2009.cora, castillo and ahern.each one is a carbon copy of the power, no range and no winning team would have at most one player like this on the roster, yet we have THREE!!!!nice job omar.
  2. isuzudude March 12, 2010 at 5:39 pm
    May be true, gary, but let’s make the most of what we have to work with.

    Only on the Mets would someone of Jose Reyes’ importance be sidelined by something so random as hyperthyroid. Mark my words, David Wright will contract botulism and Johan Santana will come down with small pox before the year is out.

    Anyway, I’d opt to give Alex Cora the majority of starts in Reyes’ absence. Make him earn that $2-mil pricetag.

    Ruben Tejada is way too young and underdeveloped to be a serious candidate. I’m sure the Mets love him because he’s hitting .364 so far this Spring, but that’s in a miniscule 22 atbats against mostly subpar competition. This is the same mentality that caused the Mets to overwhelm and overburden Bobby Parnell, Dan Murphy, and Mike Pelfrey too quickly in recent years, and yet they are showing no signs of learning from past mistakes. Tejada belongs no higher than AAA. If by June or July Reyes is still out and Tejada is hitting .290+ at Buffalo, then consider the call-up. Until then, forget it.

    I wouldn’t mind Anderson Hernandez filling Cora’s bench spot, as I trust his versatility and value his switch hitting ability over the attributes Russ Adams/Luis Hernandez/Mike Cervanek bring to the table. BTW – where has Alex Cintron been this Spring?

    As far as making a deal for another SS, I wouldn’t bother. 2010 is a throw-away year from all indications, so why sacrifice a prospect or spend extra dough on a temporary solution who will likely have very little impact on the team’s success? If Reyes never comes back, let Cora, AHern, and Tejada get all the reps. Big whoop.

    Ok, DC NINER, we know you’re out there and dying to rub our noses in dirt. Do your worst…

  3. NCMetFan March 12, 2010 at 5:57 pm
    The Mets need to seriously consider using Adams or bringing in someone else. Maybe trade one of the pitchers that are out of options for someone who can play every day. Letting Cora start not only accepts below average defense at a prime position but also will help vest him for next season at $2M. Even if the other SS option is an above average defense/little or no offense guy it is better than the below average defense with below average offense of Cora.
  4. gary s. March 13, 2010 at 12:54 am
    sorry dude but i agree with pitcher deserves to look behind him and see alex cora at short and luis castillo at second base.if tejada has any range he’s a big improvement over u said, without reyes, we are probably a 70-75 win the young guys.if ike davis keeps tearing it up in florida, play him at least the fans would have something to root for.cora and castillo = depression.
  5. Timo March 16, 2010 at 2:10 pm
    I like Russ Adams but he’s not our future. But we don’t need a future SS now, so I think he would be a good fit. Tejada needs to be in the minors. AHern is not an answer for anything. He made one great play for us and now we are stuck with him. i was glad when we traded him and then found out we got him back. That just proves that our minor league system is really shallow. As far as Cora, he did good for us last year when Reyes was out, and should have gotten a contract with us this year. HOWEVER, the contract was for 2 much money. We are giving gross contracts to people because we don’t want it to bite us in the @$$ like Marlon Anderson did (he did awesome in NATsland which really hurt us then we traded for him and got squat!). Maybe if we play Cora he will hurt himself and be out for the rest of the year. Then the insurance company can pay him and we can cut him loose next year. One can only hope.