Ruben Tejada's year will unfortunately be remembered for its gruesome conclusion. During Game 2 of the NLDS, Mets nemesis Chase Utley fractured the shortstop's right fibula with a dirty slide past second base, knocking Tejada out of the postseason.
Tejada never seems to initially factor into the team's blueprint going into a season, but he always ends up in the mix. A Mets lifer who has played for the team since 2010, Tejada is rarely deemed a true future mainstay despite coming back every year. Sandy Alderson admitted as much in Steve Kettman's book released earlier this year: "Gradually you come to the conclusion that Tejada is just a placeholder. He's not a long-term guy for us." And even this offseason, there's a rumor that Tejada might be non-tendered.
Entering the season as a reserve, the 26-year-old eventually found his way back into the lineup. In 116 games and 407 plate appearances, he hit .261/.338/.350 with three home runs, a 1.0 fWAR, and a career-high 95 wRC+. After registering an 11.3 walk percentage in 2014, he walked in 9.3 percent of his plate appearances in 2015. He doesn't do much damage with the bat, but he has also become a somewhat difficult out.
Despite making contact on a career-low 80.4 percent of swings, Tejada increased his average from .237 to .261 with the help of a career-best 26.5 hard-hit percentage. Without sacrificing walks, he swung at more offerings than ever before.
After the All-Star break, Tejada hit .287 with 20 walks and 30 strikeouts in198 plate appearances. An especially hot September—.340/.411/.480—earned him good will entering the playoffs, and he started their first two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although he struck out in five of six plate appearances, the club showed no signs of turning back to Wilmer Flores at short before Utley forced their hand.
In the field, Tejada graded poorly this season. He finished 2015 with a -5.6 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and -15 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Defensive metrics fluctuate every year and single-season numbers should be treated with skepticism, but those were the worst rates of his career by a wide margin.
Tejada did not require surgery on his injured leg, offering hope of his availability by spring training. For the second year in a row, however, he'll watch the Mets spend the offseason searching for an alternative to take his spot. Even if the Mets lose Daniel Murphy and don't add anyone else, they could turn to Dilson Herrera at second with Flores sticking at short. But don't forget about Tejada, the club's perennial fall-back plan.