Published on December 6th, 2013 | by Josh Chapdelaine0
Ruben Tejada’s Chance to Start in 2014 Continues to Rise
The Miami Marlins today reached a one-year, $3MM agreement with SS Rafael Furcal. The former Atlanta Brave makes his return to the National League East following stints in Los Angeles and St. Louis. The 36-year-old missed 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and was an early winter target for the New York Mets.
The Mets wavered on Furcal when they looked deeper into his medical history, according to Joel Sherman. The club intended to look for external options at the position this winter, however; with Furcal and Jhonny Peralta off the board there are few remaining free agent options. It appears more likely that the club will choose to upgrade at other positions and stick with incumbent shortstop Ruben Tejada in 2014.
Tejada may be a solid bounce-back candidate to take a risk on if the Mets can upgrade the outfield and receive significant production from first base. The 24-year-old is only one season removed from a .289/.333/.355 effort that many saw as a precursor of what was to come.
If the Panamanian can return to his old approach at the plate and spray the ball rather than induce pop-ups, he will have significant value. Tejada hit line drives 30% of the time in 2012, a number that dropped to 19.9% in 2013. Unsurprisingly, the shortstop hit towering fly balls 4% more and pounded the ball on the ground nearly 7% greater in 2013 than 2012. He was simply making weaker contact, but all other factors remained even keel: Tejada swung at only 27.2% of pitches outside of the strike zone in 2013, a 4% decrease from 2012.
His patience is still there, and numbers suggest that he may have been a victim of bad luck as well: His .229 BABIP in 2013 was a significant drop from his .339 BABIP in 2012. Tejada was hurt by weak contact, but a .229 BABIP in a big league setting is typically unsustainable.
Consider this: Stephen Drew will likely command a multi-year contract in excess of $10M annually this winter. He proved to be a major contributor for the World Champion Boston Red Sox in 2013 in posting a .253/.333/443 line with an 0.6 dWAR. Tejada posted similar numbers in 2012 (his slugging percentage being the outlier) with an identical 0.6 dWAR.
If the Mets were on the outside looking in at a player with Tejada’s age and potential, people would be clamoring for the club to take a chance on a low-risk, high-reward player. At a minimum salary, he could prove to pay massive dividends with a solid campaign if the club focuses on other areas.
Photo Credit: Michael Baron