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The Ruben Tejada approach and how it can be a detriment to Juan Lagares

The Mets have had few “can’t miss” position players come out of their system in recent years. David Wright, and prior to him, Jose Reyes were the last players that were expected to be able to perform at an All Star level. We all about the labeling players as “prospects” and know that a players needs to back up the talk in the big leagues before the scouts can be proven right. And that applies to the best of the best. You need to see the player succeed at the highest stage before even the player’s team can be comfortable not worrying about finding a suitable need for that particular position. So players that are not touted that high should be a little more guarded by their teams with some reinforcements in place in case they can not do the job.

So lets rewind back to the offseason after the 2011 season. The Mets let their starting SS Jose Reyes walk without having a player with the same talent to replace him going forward. And on top of it, they gave the job to Ruben Tejada without bringing in a proven player to challenge him for the job. Ronny Cedeno was signed to be a backup player, to fill in if Tejada needed a day off or got injured. Last season, that job was given to Omar Quintanilla. Culminating with last season’s performance, it looks like it was a foolish move to give Tejada the job hands down with nobody capable that can play the position. But, the Mets are the Mets. This was an obvious cost cutting decision with no intention of trying to play winning baseball.

In my opinion, the decision on Reyes had nothing to do with the blind trust that was put into Ruben Tejada. If a business decision is made to let a starting player walk, a replacement needs to be brought in. Even if the Mets thought Tejada was this great player, logic would dictate that a proven player should have been brought in to challenge him. Remember, he was 21 in 2011 with no backing that he was a sure thing. It was a lazy and potentially costly move to essentially tell Tejada not to worry. “The job is yours, buddy. All you have to do is show up.” And you see where that has taken the Mets, Tejada and their shortstop position. Look at 2014 as another season Tejada can do whatever he wants and if he pisses the Mets off too much, Q will be playing every day again.

The Mets are facing a similar situation with their outfield as it is currently constructed. The signing of OF Curtis Granderson gives them a legitimate starting OF, likely in LF. Chris Young was brought in as well, but he is coming off a down season. The Mets are trusting that Young can have a bounce back similar to that of 2013 Mets OF Marlon Byrd. I would think Young is likely to play RF, leaving CF to Juan Lagares. Assuming no other moves are made, Eric Young is the 4th OF and will start if one of the other three either get injured or does not play to capability. Eric Young is a useful player, but best suited to be a 4th OF.

Lagares had a solid rookie season in 2013. In 121 games, Lagares hit .242, 4, 34 with a .633 OPS. Obviously he stood out defensively and provides a suitable option for the Mets to go with for 2014. But similar to Tejada, it looks like the Mets are going to hand him the job without giving him any competition. Eric Young is the equivalent to Ronny Cedeno in regards to how much of a challenge Lagares is getting. I think the Mets should bring another suitable OF in to challenge Lagares. I would even prefer the Mets sign Nelson Cruz, moving CY to CF. If Lagares succeeds and the other OF do well, it gives the Mets the flexibility to make a trade and give Lagares a chance to play every day. The Mets have no flexibility if Lagares struggles this season. The Ruben Tejada approach did not work with Ruben Tejada. Just giving Lagares the CF job without any competition makes the Mets look disinterested in the starting positions on their team once again.
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