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Is Ruben Tejada the Mets' backup middle infielder?

The Mets did not non-tender Ruben Tejada when they had the chance. Could his role on the 2015 Mets be to backup shortstop and second base?

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

When the Mets decided to keep Ruben Tejada around for a little longer, they clearly had at least an idea of how he could be useful. A lot depends on what other shortstops the Mets can acquire for next season, or if they trade Wilmer Flores or Daniel Murphy, but Tejada can nevertheless play a useful role as a backup.

Good all-around shortstop are hard to find, and Tejada's decent on-base percentage and ability to adequately play the position are valuable assets. That's part of the reason he's still a Met. The organization just isn't swimming with great options to fill the role. Flores showed some good signs last year, but the jury is still out on whether he will be able to field the position or if he'll even walk or hit enough to be a major league player at all. Dilson Herrera looked okay in his debut, but he hasn't even played at Triple-A yet and only has 27 professional games at shortstop in his career.

The external options aren't great either. They all have assorted flaws, and many of them aren't even likely to outplay Tejada. Everyone knows the Mets need a shortstop, so they've been linked to just about every middle infielder imaginable, including international players like Korea's Jung-Ho Kang, with whom the Pirates won the exclusive right to negotiate. Any team that has a shortstop prospect anywhere near the majors that might not be horrible is calling up the Mets looking to make a deal. And, nearly as often, asking for way too much in return.

Among the shortstops the Mets have been linked to this offseason that didn't have a significantly better OPS in 2014 than Ruben Tejada include Stephen Drew, Everth Cabrera, Elvis Andrus, Didi Gregorius, Xander Bogaerts, Wilmer Flores, and Jed Lowrie. Just because those guys didn't outplay Tejada in 2014 doesn't mean they're worthless, or that they're bad bets to outplay him in 2015, but they're hardly safe bets either.

Of course, that doesn't mean there are no options. It just means that the Mets need to look higher, and bet larger, to get a significant contributor. Troy Tulowitzki is the prize, but he's a gamble based on contract length and health. The Mets didn't chase after Hanley Ramirez, who signed a long-term deal with the Red Sox. And then there are always the fans—a growing number, no doubt—who want to see the Mets bring back Jose Reyes somehow. If the Mets do choose a solution along those lines, Tejada can still be a valuable backup.

Bench guys that can play the middle infield aren't the sexiest players around

The backup middle infielder is the one spot on the bench where you aren't too concerned about getting power numbers. You're looking for a guy that can handle the role defensively and not be an automatic out when pressed into duty with the bat. Ruben Tejada would be better than average in that role, a role that's been filled by offensive sinkholes Omar Quintanilla and Luis Hernandez in the past.

Bench guys that can play the middle infield aren't the sexiest players around, but they're still important ones. If the Mets aren't forced—again—into using Tejada as a starting shortstop, he'd be excellent in a supporting role.