The New York Mets sit at an even 19-19 record heading into Wednesday’s game against the New York Yankees. They have strung three wins in a row after dropping five consecutive games to the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies. Their starting pitching has been performing well, ranking 7th in quality starts and despite an abysmal bullpen, rank 19th in team ERA. Though their bullpen struggles are duly noted, there is another facet of the team stifling the Mets from prosperity.
Entering Wednesday, the Mets compiled the 21st worst team 0n-base percentage and 29th worst slugging percentage in Major League Baseball. Only four starters have churned an OPS over the 2014 league-average of .710. The four being Daniel Murphy (.840), Juan Lagares (.783), Lucas Duda (.772), and David Wright (.736). Collectively New York has the third worst team OPS, behind only the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres.
New York did very little to improve their glaring bullpen instability but did make moves to ameliorate their lineup in the offseason. They signed power bats Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, who has shown promise in the past, to their respective contracts. Both guys were expected to be solid contributors on offense and defense. However, the former has not happened yet. Granderson has composed a paltry .663 OPS in 132 at-bats, and Chris Young hasn’t been much better with a below-average .706 OPS in 83 at-bats. Young spent the beginning of the season sidelined with an ailment, hence the fewer plate appearances.
While the new guys have been disappointing with the stick, other Mets’ veterans have been as well. Eric Young Jr. continues to only provide value with his legs — accumulating a weak .669 OPS with only six extra base knocks. Travis d’Arnaud, the highly touted prospect, has been non-existent on offense composing a meager .558 OPS. To round out the Mets’ scuffling lineup, Ruben Tejada‘s offensive deficiency continues to be a humongous problem. In 95 at-bats, the shortstop has collected only four extra base hits, sporting a dismal .564 OPS.
Despite persistent pleas from the masses to start Wilmer Flores instead, the Mets continue to play Tejada on a daily basis. The organization is extremely concerned with Flores’ poor defensive play and can’t even fathom the hefty amount of miscues Flores would make playing shortstop everyday. Even though Flores has shown so much offensive prowess in the minors, New York believes his defensive shortcoming are too problematic to be their guy at short. Unfortunately for Flores, first, second, and third base are occupied for the foreseeable future — positions which are viewed more acceptable to play lackluster defense so long as you’re hitting. That said, he was given the chance to play last season and failed to provide any value on the offensive side of the ball. In 101 plate appearances, the 22-year-old slashed a lousy .211/.248/.295 clip.
A combination of poor small sample size play and deplorable defense, makes it unlikely New York hands Flores the key to be their future shortstop. The Mets have two shortstop prospects ranked in the top ten within the organization, according to Baseball Prospectus in Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario. But their ETAs is 2017 at the earliest. So with no evident solution to fix their shortstop woes, the New York Mets should offer free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew a three-year deal.
Drew played exceptionally well with the Boston Red Sox last season, after signing a one-year, $9.5 million contract in December of 2013, seeking to re-establish his value on the market. He amassed a solid .253/.333/.443 slash in 501 plate appearances, accompanied by steady defensive play. Drew’s plan had worked and expected a lavish, multi-year deal in the 2013-2014 offseason to reward him for his consistent play.
Represented by Scott Boras, who is renowned for being one of the best agents in baseball, Drew was anticipated to find a suitor in no time. Sure, signing him meant losing a draft pick, but with teams like the New York Mets, New York Yankees, and St. Louis Cardinals in desperate need of a long-term solution at shortstop, it seemed apparent he would be picked up. However, that’s not happened. Nearly a month and half through the 2014 Major League Baseball season, Stephen Drew remains unsigned.
Sandy Alderson, the New York Mets general manager, has taken unrelenting scrutiny from media and fans alike the past few weeks. He was supposed to turn the franchise around but continues to make questionable decisions. ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin wrote an interesting piece the other day on why Alderson is the problem. In the paragraph below, he outlined some dubious moves made or not made by the Mets’ front office the past winter.
“The Mets seem to always need to win the trade, or there is inaction. Did they really need to still evaluate Ike Davis versus Lucas Duda in spring training after seeing them for the three previous years? When the Mets indicated they were not pursuing Jose Abreu during the offseason because they already had three first basemen, how can you have full faith in their evaluation skills? Wasn’t it entirely predictable how Ruben Tejada would work out at shortstop?”
This was written two days ago when the Mets had lost five of their last six and were 17-19. They were lifeless, beat up, and frustrated. Then, the two game winning streak happened. The Mets offense came to life, pummeling the Yankees pitching for 21 runs in two games. The Metropolitans had scored 19 runs combined the previous seven games.
The Mets have fought hard and are not giving up, but in the end talent plays. New York needs a guy like Drew. A guy who plays consistent baseball. A seasoned veteran at one of the hardest positions in baseball. Sandy Alderson has shown he’s not going out without a fight, calling up coveted prospect Rafael Montero to the majors. The Mets are poised to compete when Matt Harvey returns and Noah Syndergaard is ready to pitch in the bigs, giving them a premier rotation in baseball. Albeit, that’s not been the issue the past few seasons. The problem has been an ineffective bullpen and inconsistent offense. Signing Drew long-term certainly is a step in the right direction to bringing consistency across the diamond for the Mets. The question is, will Alderson have the audacity to do it?