Sam and Diane. Ross and Rachel. Kramer and George. Troy Tulowitzki and the Mets. As 2014 rolls into 2015, Tulo and Mets are reaching classic "will they/won't they" levels. While the two sides dance their annoying dance, spring training inches closer with what appears to be no impending answer to that lingering question: Will the shortstop position continue to be an offensive black hole for the Mets in 2015?
In 2014, NL shortstops hit .253/.313/.376, for a 103 sOPS+. Somehow Mets shortstop "production" was under that very low-set bar, as they recorded just 27 extra base hits and an 87 sOPS+ (in other words, shortstops had a 13% worse OPS than the rest of baseball), with a paltry batting line of .231/.317/.312. Ruben Tejada led the way, I guess, starting 114 games, collecting just 16 extra base hits and a posting a 90 OPS+.
As of this writing, the Mets have the three shortstops on their 40-man roster who started 160 of 162 games last season. Of the three, none are older than 25, none have ever posted even a league-average OPS+, and two (Wilmer Flores and Wilfredo Tovar) have a combined 59 games played at the position. While Tovar might be the future, his eight career games played at short would force the Mets to contend with Tejada starting 110-120 games. And if it is not Tejada, is there a solution still to be found, even if it is just for one season?
Well, short of trading for Tulowitzki or alternative target Ben Zobrist, a couple of quality-ish veteran free agent shortstops remain available to bring in on a one-year or minor league deal. The options might appear underwhelming initially, but they do make you wonder: Can it be 2008 again? Here is a rundown of the notable players still available.
A torn hamstring just this week makes Furcal less appealing than he was just 72 hours ago. At 37, he has not played a full season since 2012. Furcal was an All-Star with St. Louis, albeit one who finished the season with a 95 OPS+ thanks to a line of .216/.278/.265 from June through August. Tommy John surgery on his right elbow then caused him to miss all of 2013. Reports that he might not be ready to start the season make Furcal perhaps the least appealing option.
2014 Season: Nine games with Florida, .171/.216/.229
Career at Citi Field: 8 games, 2 doubles, .235/.333/.294, 69 tOPS+
Last and certainly the most Drew. He has been linked to the Mets for months, maybe even years, and his expected $7 million price tag would make him the most expensive option. The Cubs have also shown interest. Drew's 2014 started bleak in Boston (.583 OPS and 63 OPS+) and somehow got worse when he was traded to the left-hand hitters haven that is Yankee Stadium (.491 OPS and 39 OPS+). Drew still managed an all-right 22 extra-base hits in 85 games, and he is just a season removed from swatting 50 extra-base hits, a 111 OPS+, and a bWAR of 3.1 as the everyday shortstop for the World Series champion Sox. As two reclamation projects passing in the night, Drew and the Mets could use each other for 100-115 games.
2014 Season: 7 home runs, 14 doubles, .162/.237/.299, 51 OPS+
Career at Citi Field: 8 games, 1 home run, 4 doubles, .265/.324/.529, 125 tOPS+
If the Mets had to rely on their shortstop to be an All-Star in order to contend in 2015, this list would make an already-bleak situation feel even worse. Thanks to solid offensive pieces in place at other positions, however, just league-average production would be welcome. Can, and will, this production come from a veteran with a past record of success? The Mets have had 350 games to see it probably will not be from Ruben Tejada. Furcal and Drew are at least worth discussing, just in case, like Kramer and George, Tulo and the Mets never get together.