The Mets are bringing infielder Ruben Tejada to meet the team on its road trip in Atlanta, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). Whether he’ll formally be added to the MLB roster will depend upon the still-pending medical review of Jeff McNeil, who was injured last night.
Regardless of how this situation plays out, it’s interesting to see Tejada tabbed as the McNeil replacement option. For one thing, it’s a homecoming for the former New York stalwart, whose original tenure in Queens ended in memorably blunt fashion. Of more immediate concern, it’s a bit of a curious choice from a roster fit.
Tejada and McNeil are both infielders by trade. But the Mets have utilized McNeil frequently in a corner outfield role of late, and that is the area of the roster that seems most in need of supplementation if he requires an IL stint.
As things stand, the Mets can utilize the recently-acquired Joe Panik at second while deploying Luis Guillorme as a utility infielder. But the outfield sans McNeil would feature Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, Juan Lagares, and Aaron Altherr. The latter two players have turned in miserable offensive efforts to this point of the season.
Tejada has been swinging the bat well at Triple-A, where he owns a .332/.411/.477 batting line over 299 plate appearances. Even allowing for International League offensive inflation, that’s a strong 132 wRC+. But the 29-year-old has never appeared in the outfield as a professional. Neither has Guillorme. Ditto Panik.
That said, there is logic in going to Tejada right now. With opponents scheduling lefty starters in two of the next three games, he’ll be a nice compliment to the left-handed-hitting Panik. Meanwhile, the club will feel better about leaning on Lagares, a strong up-the-middle defender who has historically fared much better when facing southpaws.
Ultimately, if McNeil is down for a while, it seems some kind of outfield supplementation will be preferable — even if that means going outside the organization (tough as that may be this time of the year). Whether Tejada would have a shot at sticking on the roster for the duration of the season remains to be seen.