By David Andrews
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson showed little faith in shortstop Ruben Tejada last year, and with less than three weeks until Spring Training it looks as if Tejada is going to get another chance. Instead, Alderson should go shopping while free agent shortstop Stephen Drew is still on the market. He is worth more than just a one-year deal to boost fan morale. A three-year, $36 million contract is the way to go.
According to a report late on January 28 by MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, the Mets are unlikely to sign Drew. The question is how long the Mets could lock him in for if their interest reemerges. Alderson has said that he is only willing to sign him for one year at a bargain, but Scott Boras, Drew’s agent, seeks three. The Mets might have better shortstop options in 2015, but there is also the possibility that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles extend would-be free agents Hanley Ramirez and J.J. Hardy. Other teams could outbid the Mets for other desirable free agent shortstops. Ramirez and Hardy will ask for more than Drew next offseason. Why wait one year to sign Hardy, who isn’t even that much better than him?
Seventy-eight wins for the 2014 Mets won’t get them into the playoffs, but Drew would have an impact on the team. The difference in WAR (wins above replacement) between Drew (3.4) and Tejada (-0.3) was 3.7 last season. Could that be the difference between an eighth consecutive year of missing the playoffs and a Wild Card spot? It’s a long shot but not impossible. Say the Mets have a better season than expected and win 81 games. That could be 84 or 85 wins with Drew. Since the addition of the second Wild Card position in 2012, the worst team record to win the spot was the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals’ 88-74 season. That still puts the Mets just a few games out.
Drew played 124 games last season for the Red Sox. Prior to 2013 his last full season was with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. Drew put up strong offensive numbers for a shortstop when healthy. Last year he hit .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBI. In 2010 he hit .278 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI. If that does not seem impressive, then looking over Tejada’s offensive line should change a few minds. He had a .202 batting average with no home runs and 10 RBI last season. In 2010 Tejada hit .213 with just one homer and 15 RBI. Four seasons have gone by and he has only hit two home runs. The Mets need some kind of power from the shortstop position.
2014 is shaping up to be another lame duck year for the Mets. The ace is out for the season and won’t return until 2015. The future beyond 2014 is bright, but if the Mets want fans to frequent Citi Field this season Alderson should insert Drew’s bat into the lineup and remove the worthless Tejada. But why mess with team chemistry by only having Drew for 2015 and a new shortstop in 2016? Alderson should give Drew the security of a third year with a $3 million buyout. That would be comforting for both Drew and the Mets. If Alderson were willing to make Drew a key piece for 2015 and 2016, when postseason hope might rekindle in Queens, then I’d tell Alderson to open his wallet. With a three-year deal at the right price, Drew would be a great fit for the Mets. Either that or place your faith in the hands of Tejada and hope he doesn’t throw it wide.
You can follow David Andrews on Twitter @Metfan2442