News broke earlier today that Ruben Tejada has been placed on waivers by the New York Mets. Should the New York Yankees make a claim?
Coming into this spring, most of the Yankees’ roster spots were pretty much decided. The only real “competitions” were going to be for the last spot in the bullpen and the last spot on the bench. Keep in mind that I’m not counting the fifth starter competition here because I’m fairly certain all three candidates will be on the roster no matter what. Anyway, the popular belief is that that last bench spot will eventually go to a guy who can back up third base.
Most people think Rob Refsnyder has the inside track on that job, and the team has stoked the flames on that rumor a bit by making a conscious effort to have him play games at third base so far this spring. However, Refsnyder spent his entire college career in the outfield, and has only begun learning how to play infield at second base over the last few seasons, so I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s going to be able to even handle the position well enough to be the man for the backup job when the Yankees break camp in April.
The other options currently in camp right now are not all that enticing: Pete Kozma, Donovan Solano, Jonathan Diaz and Ronald Torreyes. Diaz is 30 years old and only has 35 big league games under his belt, only three of which are at the hot corner. He holds a .145/.242/.164 career slash line in just 65 plate appearances. The 27-year old does Solano bring some experience (361 games for the Marlins over the last four seasons), but his bat has not really played at the MLB level. He owns a .257/.307/.328 slash line in 1,145 career plate appearances, and hit .189 last year before being released. He has also only played 24 of his games at third base.
Kozma, meanwhile, is the prototypical all-glove-no-hit infielder made popular by every team in the national league during the 1980s. He played 143 games as a starter for the 2013 Cardinals, but has only managed 132 more combined over his other four seasons in the bigs. Most of his games 76 games last season were as a substitute, as he only managed 111 plate appearances despite filling up the G column on Baseball Reference. Kozma comes with a reputation as being a great fielder, but has himself only played 14 career games at third.
Torreyes is the player that most intrigues me out of the four. The Yankees acquired him from the Dodgers in a trade this winter. He’s just 22 years old, and was the Astros’ 24th best prospect coming into last season. He has some experience a third base, but has only had eight plate appearances in the big leagues. Torreyes is also a versatile player, having played all over the infield, and even some outfield, in the minors. The big knock on him is his bat. He’s got virtually no power potential, but he does make a ton of contact, which could be valuable.
That brings us to the man in question. Tejada was a big time prospect for the Mets before making his debut at the tender age of 20 in 2010. He had a couple of decent seasons, hitting .287/.345/.345 in 210 games in 2011 and 2012, but his batting average has dipped in recent years. The Mets beefed up their infield this offseason, signing Asdrubal Cabrera and trading for Neil Walker, which made Tejada expendable. I was a bit surprised that they’d waive him so early in spring, especially considering Cabrera’s injury, but the point is, he’s there for the taking.
Tejada brings plenty of good to the table. For one, he has a reputation as a solid fielder. He’s played mostly shortstop in his career, but he does have some experience at second and third as well. He also has nearly 600 major league games under his belt, which shouldn’t be discounted either. The problem with Tejada is that, as I mentioned before, his bat has really taken a dip. Over the last three seasons, he’s only managed a .238/.323/.314 slash line in 292 games. That being said, as the last man on the bench, he wouldn’t be needed to do much with the bat. See the ball. Catch the ball. Throw the ball. Don’t kill the team with your bat when you play. Those are pretty much the criteria a potential last man off the bench has to live up to these days.
The big question here is this: Is Ruben Tejada a better option to fulfill those criteria than the other five guys we’ve talked about in this post? Personally, I think the guys the Yankees have in camp — Refsnyder and Torreyes in particular — could do as good a job, if not a better job, than Tejada at this point. However, you have to plan for the worst in this league. If they don’t sign him, and Chase Headley gets hurt, are they comfortable with Refsnyder stepping in to start and one of the other four guys being called up as the backup until a trade can potentially be made? Should they stash Tejada just in case, especially considering some of the other candidates have minor league options left?
Although I’m intrigued at the possibility of a revival as a bench guy for Tejada, I’m going to say that they should pass this time. If they’re put in the position where one of their own options is forced into every day duty, I bet they’d make a trade sooner rather than later anyway. Let Tejada try to catch on somewhere else.
What do you guys think? Yes or No on Tejada? Let us know in the comments below!