It’s no secret that shortstop was the worst position for the Mets during the 2013 season. Ruben Tejada fell out of favor early by showing up to camp out of shape resulting in a very disappointing season both defensively and offensively. In 57 games, Tejada produced a slash line of .202/.259/.260 and eventually broke his fibula; miserable numbers compared to the season before when he produced a promising .289/.333/.351 line in 114 games. Tejada clearly did not seize the opportunity he was given and, as a result, may lose the job in 2014.
Recently, Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Mets may be looking to trade for a young shortstop to replace Tejada, mentioning two prospects in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and two prospects in the Seattle Mariners organization. Let’s take a closer look at these prospects as well as a few other names the Mets could potentially add before the offseason comes to an end.
Ken Rosenthal’s suggestions:
Didi Gregorius, Arizona Diamondbacks
Some people are saying Gregorius is Sandy’s most realistic option to add a shortstop through trade and if that’s the case, I think they should stick with Tejada. Didi is a defensive first shortstop showing great range and instincts as well as a strong arm. His hitting leaves something to be desired, however, batting just .271/.333/.371 in 1,909 career minor league plate appearances. When Didi made his debut for the Diamondbacks last season, he came out of the gates hot but eventually settled down with an ultimate line of .252/.332/.373 with 7 home runs and 0 stolen bases in 357 AB’s. He has never really displayed much power, base-stealing ability or a propensity to reach base in general. Since the Mets would like whoever they may acquire to bat leadoff, I don’t think Gregorius is the right guy for them because he would only be a marginal upgrade to Tejada offensively.
Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
Chris Owings is perhaps the most intriguing option Ken Rosenthal mentioned because of his ceiling. Owings still needs quite a bit of polish offensively, showing an overly aggressive approach and a tendency to swing through changeups and breaking pitches. However, each of his tools has the potential to rate as solid average which doesn’t sound too exciting but when a player at a premium position can do everything well, he’s a keeper. He advertises a rare power and speed combination that, at its peak, could yield around 10-15 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases per season. Like Gregorius, Owings is solid defensively as well. He has good instincts with decent range and an average arm so scouts say he will be a capable shortstop for the long term. To acquire Owings from Arizona, the Mets would likely have to part with a top pitching prospect and more (probably not Syndergaard but the next best thing) or an established pitcher such as Jon Niese, which is probably not the best idea considering he’s the only lefty in the rotation. If the Mets were to expect Owings to lead off for them he would likely need a little more time in the minors to work on a more patient approach which is why he may not be the best option for them either. The Mets need a solution now, not mid-season or in 2015.
Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners
Nick Franklin has a good chance to be one of the best players on this list offensively. Like Owings, Franklin has the coveted power and speed combination but maybe even more so. Franklin struggled in his first taste of the major leagues last season with a line of .225/.303/.382 in 369 AB’s but he did show the ability to draw some walks with a 10.2% BB rate. He also needs to cut down on his strikeouts, whiffing 113 times last season in that span. With more major league experience, Franklin has the potential to hit 15-20 home runs and swipe 20-25 bases per season. There is a drawback to Franklin, however, as he does not play the kind of defense Gregorious or Owings does. Franklin has a fringe average arm at best. That combined with mediocre range makes it look like he is destined to be a second basemen, which is perfectly fine, but not for the Mets.
Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners
From what I’ve read about Brad Miller, he has plus makeup and plays the game the right way. He hustles, wears his socks high, and doesn’t wear batting gloves. These are the kinds of players I love. To me, one of the most bad-ass things in baseball is not wearing batting gloves. Ask Wil Myers. Anyway, Miller shows a good approach at the plate with a solid average hit tool. His power is below average but could become league average if his 6’2”, 185 pound frame adds some bulk. He is a quick runner, however, and with his intensity I wouldn’t be surprised if he could steal 30 bases at his peak. Miller shows the tool set to stick at shortstop with good range and instincts but could end up at second base because of his shaky hands. He will never be a star but he could become a league average, reliable shortstop or utility man that coaches will love if all goes well.
Other names to keep an eye on:
Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics
I’ve always been a huge fan of Lowrie but he has never really shown the ability to stay healthy until last year with Oakland. He played in 154 games last year which is great but before that he never played in more than 97 during any particular season. Lowrie is an above average hitter with decent pop. Last year with the A’s he had a slash line of .290/.344/.446 with 15 home runs. He will only steal you a handful of bases but his defense is solid average and when you can get that kind of offensive output out of the shortstop position, you’re golden. Lowrie possesses the necessary traits to lead off except the ability to steal bases but his power more than makes up for that. Billy Beane has made it known that he will not deal Lowrie this offseason. I’ll believe that when he’s still on the A’s on opening day. Addison Russell is breathing down his neck and Lowrie is a free agent after the season so my best guess is if he’s not dealt this offseason he’s dealt at the trade deadline. If Oakland does not try and get a hefty return for him and his $2.5 million salary, they’re insane. Because the Mets would be buying high on Lowrie, they might be better inclined to wait until the offseason to sign him and see if he can stay healthy for a second straight year, while sticking with Tejada this season. However, if Lowrie becomes available at the right price, he may be the answer the Mets are looking for.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
This is probably not very likely to happen. Asdrubal Cabrera is coming off one of the worst years of his career and like Lowrie, Cabrera is a free agent after the season. He’s making around $7 million in 2014 so he’s not cheap. Cabrera has made his fair share of web gems which probably exaggerates his value as a defensive shortstop as well. He did hit 25 home runs and steal 17 bases in 2011 but it could be that he is starting to hit his decline phase a bit early. Rumor is Cleveland is asking way too much for him anyway so the Mets are better off seeing how he performs this season with the consideration to sign him in the offseason.
J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles
There is no chance that JJ Hardy could lead off if he were acquired by the Mets so I don’t see this one happening either. He’s a career .260 hitter with a career .312 OBP who doesn’t steal very many bases. He does have quite a bit of pop for the position but the Mets have already added enough power to the lineup with Curtis Granderson and Chris Young. Now it’s time to find players who can get on base so these guys can drive them in. Hardy does play fantastic defense and I would love to have him on my team but I just don’t think he fits into the current lineup that is shaping up for the Mets next season.
Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
I posted a whole article the other day on why I think it’s a great idea to acquire Elvis Andrus. If you want to know why I think he would be a perfect fit to bat leadoff for the Mets and play shortstop for years to come, then read my piece. However, I only think the Mets should acquire him if they can get him at the right price which I don’t think is very likely. Texas no longer has an inclination to move any more middle infielders so they would most likely have to be blown away to move him. I definitely would not move Syndergaard or d’Arnaud for him if I’m Sandy Alderson. He had a down year last year and although I think it was a fluke and he’s capable of much more, the risk is still there. And then there’s that contract…
Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers
This is perhaps my favorite option for shortstop next season and beyond but, unfortunately, it may be the most unrealistic. Profar was the best prospect in baseball a year ago so he would probably be even more expensive than Andrus. He has been described as a natural leader having plus makeup. He does not have one particular tool that is elite but scouts say that every single one of them is at least solid average. Profar is a switch hitter which is a talent that is becoming more and more rare. He has good speed and can probably steal 20-25 bases at his peak, maybe even more. He is projected to hit for average as well as some power (maybe 12-17 home runs at Citi). He has great instincts and range at shortstop with a plus arm so there is no doubt he could stick there long term. The tools are certainly there for Profar to be an All Star and possibly an MVP candidate but the big question is whether or not those tools can translate to the field. He had trouble last year in limited playing time producing a slash line of .234/.308/.336 but he was blocked by Kinsler and Andrus so he was not able to take the field every day. He is still just 20 years old and I think we see significant improvement from Profar this year since he’ll be playing daily regardless of what team he’s on. If Texas agreed to a Noah Syndergaard for Jurickson Profar swap, I wouldn’t even think twice about it. At the moment, they are both prospects and we don’t know how either will end up producing. I would, however, think twice about giving up Syndergaard AND d’Arnaud for him but I would still entertain the idea. I like his potential that much.
Many of the prospects who could potentially be available may very well depend on whoever ends up with David Price if and when he gets moved. I’ve heard rumors that Arizona, Seattle, and Texas are all interested which could lead to a bidding war. I’m fairly certain if any of these teams ended up acquiring him at least one (maybe both for Arizona and Seattle) of the shortstops mentioned for each team would be involved. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.
I still believe the Mets will end up with Tejada manning the position on opening day which I am somewhat okay with. I think trading for any of the shortstops Ken Rosenthal mentioned would be a haphazard decision. If you’re taking a chance on a young shortstop, why not let it be Tejada and not give up any prospects or established major leaguers? Although he’ll never be an exciting player, he showed some promise in 2012 where he looked like he could be an average regular. I don’t think he is the shortstop of the future but I am interested to see if he is able to rebound from an atrocious 2013. In a perfect world, I would hope Tejada has a successful season to build his trade value going into next offseason during which I think the Mets should sign a reliable free agent shortstop. His ‘voluntary’ attendance at fitness camp in Michigan this offseason has impressed both Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson so I bet they are willing to give him one last chance with a short leash. It would certainly be risky because the Mets have literally no other options in-house but, hey, what’s life without taking chances?
With all this on the table, who would you most like to see in orange and blue on opening day from this list?