This mailbag question comes from Alex:
Anyone watching this team would notice that we are in dire need of a shortstop. With no one in the minors close to the majors, and Tejada and Quintanilla not getting the job done, are there any quality shortstops that the Mets can realistically acquire?
Alex is right about what we have now. While I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on the 23 year-old Ruben Tejada (I would let him play the season out), neither him nor Omar Quintanilla have provided much in the way of offense. Even when they’re hitting for a high batting average, it’s a pretty empty average, with little in the way of power and neither of their On-Base Percentages are very high either. Even in the Mets’ lineup, they are limited to the seventh or eighth spots.
If the Mets are going to make a deal, it’s going to be for someone significantly better than Tejada. However the market for shortstops is very thin at the moment and could get thinner as teams who were looking like sellers early on may now become buyers. Here is an overview of some of the big-name trade candidates.
- Hanley Ramirez– Ramirez was a much more likely trade candidate a few weeks ago, but the Dodgers have caught fire and are now right back int eh thick of the NL West race, so Ramirez is likely to stay in Los Angeles. He has also been arguably their best player this month (even better than Yasiel Puig), hitting .406/.448/.729 in 31 games after returning from a hamstring injury, which had sidelined him for the first two months of the season. Ramirez has knocked seven home runs and stolen four bases during that span. Ramirez would give the Mets a rare power threat at shortstop. He is owed almost $24 million (about $8 million left this season and $16 million next year) through the end of the 2014 season.
- Alexei Ramirez– This Ramirez is far more likely to be traded than Hanley, as the White Sox are in all-out sell mode, ready to deal just about anybody on their roster. Alexei Ramirez is having a down year, so his price will be far less than what it was three years ago. The 31 year-old’s power has dropped dramatically over the past two seasons. He was once a perennial 15 to 20 home run hitter, but has just one in 84 games this year. His slash line is a very empty .280/.309/.346 with a .286 wOBA, which is five points below average for shortstops, and 30 points below average for non-pitchers. He is owed about $24 million over the next three years, so he could be a potential salary dump for the White Sox.
- Starlin Castro– A few years ago, Castro looked like a cornerstone piece,so the Cubs paid him handsomely, locking him up to a seven-year, $60 million deal. That doesn’t seem like a ton of money, but Castro hasn’t even been worth that this season. Hitting just .234/.269/.327 this season, Castro has seen his whiff rate increase and his walk rate drop, always a bad sign. The Cubs, too, are in all-out sell mode as a part of Theo Epstein’s rebuilding process, so Castro could definitely be moved.
- Elvis Andrus– The Rangers have a logjam in the middle infield, with Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar locking up second base and shortstop. Elvis Andrus looks like the odd man out. Although Profar has been practicing in left field and could move there eventually, the Rangers might be more comfortable just trading Andrus and allowing Profar to play his natural position. Andrus is a solid shortstop with some speed with an average walk rate. He has had a down year, hitting just .243/.296/.284 in 84 games. Here is the issue: the Rangers extended Andrus to a monster eight-year $118 million contract in April. Frankly, I didn’t see the reasoning behind it then, and I still don’t see it now. Andrus is only a slightly above average shortstop offensively. Although he does bring solid defensive skills to the table (7.1 career UZR/150), he probably amounts to nothing more than a 3-3.5 win player, not at all worth that contract. Unless the Rangers are willing to absorb, I wouldn’t even think about a deal, and I doubt the Mets would either.
That’s it for the big candidates. I only included these four names because as I said earlier, if the Mets are going to upgrade at shortstop, it only makes sense to upgrade significantly, which these four players would be.
Have any other suggestions? Tell me in the comments section!