COMMENTARY | New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has some work ahead of him this winter.
One of the areas they'll need to address is shortstop. With limited depth at the position in the minor leagues, Elvis Andrus would fit nicely into New York's 2014 starting lineup.
Ruben Tejada put together a solid 2012 campaign (.289/.333/.351), but he hasn't taken any steps forward this season. He injured himself in the ninth inning on May 29 against the New York Yankees. Since then, he hasn't seen any time in the big leagues, spending the rest of his season with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s.
The front office obviously doesn't believe Tejada is the future shortstop in Flushing. Omar Quintanilla has been manning the position since Tejada's departure, but his .221/.310/.289 line won't keep him as the main option. His defense is good, but not that good.
Alderson finally has flexibility to spend money this winter, but there aren't many attractive free-agent options at shortstop. The situation the Texas Rangers are currently in have the makings of an interesting winter -- one that the Mets could benefit from.
The Rangers have a logjam in the middle of their infield moving into 2014. Ian Kinsler is playing second base and is signed through 2017. Andrus was signed to a long-term deal in April 2013, keeping him in Arlington until 2022 (if he doesn't exercise his opt-out clause). Last, but not least, top prospect Jurickson Profar (a natural shortstop) needs a position to play next year.
If Eric Young, Jr. is deemed to be a fourth outfielder and not a starting player for the Mets, they will need an experienced leadoff hitter to set the table. Andrus is hitting .264/.325/.316 with 49 RBIs and 35 stolen bases at the age of 25, his fifth year in the big leagues.
Andrus has shown his durability since breaking into the majors in 2009. He's never played fewer than 145 games in a season, is close to registering his third straight 20-double season, and has stolen 30 or more bases four times. He is young, but has postseason experience, playing in two World Series with Texas. He would give the Mets everything Young has given them, but better overall defense.
There is an intriguing part of his contract. Andrus has the chance to opt out after both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Since his agent is Scott Boras, he will probably do so after the '18 season at the age of 29. If Andrus does end up in New York, it would best for the Mets if he opted out. He relies on speed and would continue getting paid a high salary into his 30s if he stays. New York didn't want Jose Reyes for that reason (at least, partially), and I'm sure this situation would be the same.
His potential opt-out would allow the Mets to have Andrus during his prime years, at a decent price (five years/$66.475 million). It could also buy enough time for 2012 first-round pick Gavin Cecchini to possibly develop into a big leaguer and eventually take his place. Cecchini is 19 years old with Class-A Brooklyn, and he is at least three years away from the majors with the progress he's made so far.
Getting a slugging outfielder is necessary for 2014, but fixing shortstop should be Alderson's top priority. If I were him, my main target to fix the most important position on the diamond would be Elvis Andrus.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue, Mets Merized Online, and Rising Apple. He currently serves as Executive Editor of MetsMinors.net.
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