Cora vs. Tejada

The Mets will have to make the ugly decision to play either Alex Cora or Ruben Tejada at SS in Jose Reyes’ absence.  My first thought was that they’re really, really going to miss Reyes. My second thought was that both players are going to be offensive sinks, so the gains from one to the other are very small at best.  But which guy should they choose?

So, lets turn to the projections for the two players.  I’ve compared the weighted means generated by most recent build of Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system for the two players below.  For years, PECOTA has outperformed the other available projection systems.  However, BP has really been struggling with PECOTA this year while making a long-overdue attempt to modernize their backend architecture.  It seems that they now have enough of the bugs worked out that I’m comfortable using it.

Cora 34 .267 .332 .360
Tejada 20 .250 .298 .344
Hernandez 27 .260 .316 .352

I hate to say it, but those numbers for Cora feel a little optimistic coming off a .251/.320/.310 campaign in 2009.   Cora is on record saying he can do better, and his broken thumbs hurt his offensive output in 2009. I’m sympathetic to this argument, but the fact is that he’s cleared a .320 OBP and a .360 SLG just once in the last six years.  In the other five, I believe, his thumbs were intact.  At Fangraphs, Bill James, CHONE and Marcel put Cora around .250/.320/.340, which is close enough.

CHONE is the only one of the systems hosted by Fangraphs to evaluate Tejada, pegging him for an unimpressive .237/.291/.316 line.  Tejada, lest you forget hit .289/.351/.381 for AA Binghamton in 2009.

Obviously, Tejada, as the younger player by 15 years, is a much better bet to improve.

Defensively, by UZR, Cora has been a few runs below average the last two years, after playing a few runs above average for the preceding three seasons.  Total zone has also not liked Cora’s work defensively recently.  I firmly believe that Tejada would outplay Cora defensively.  A middle infield of Cora and Luis Castillo would be murder on Mike Pelfrey, but not on the grounders pitchers try to generate.

And the Winner is:

The Phillies.  And the Braves.

And Tejada, weakly.

The Mets need Reyes on the field to mount a playoff challenge. In the interim, the Mets can use the final three weeks until Opening Day to figure out whether Tejada’s defensive advantage is as real as I think it is.  Either way, the team will be getting very poor production from their SS position.  Tejada at least makes a lot of contact, so with balls in play, he’ll have a chance to put up a decent batting average for a month.

Other Takes:

Adam Rubin believes it’ll be Tejada on Opening Day.

Ted Berg wants to remind everyone again, and again, how little sense resigning Alex Cora made, especially given that the Mets don’t trust him to play SS in Reyes’ absence.

Kevin Goldstein thinks the Mets should go with Tejada:

This wouldn’t be another case of the Mets curbing the development of some high-ceiling prospect by rushing him to the majors; Tejada is pretty much all he’s ever going to be right now, and he’s certainly not going to be worse than Cora.

There are 12 comments

  1. WC

    I understand that he’s not a high ceiling prospect, but claiming Tejada is all that he’ll ever be is a lame duck approach. Adjusting to AA pitching at 19 isn’t something to sneeze at. He’ll never have big power, but Tejada at 24 is going to hit more doubles than he will at 20.

      1. WC

        Just griping about KG’s underhanded trash of my mancrush.

        It’s an easy decision. Cora can’t hit regardless, and they need Tejada’s defense.

  2. mistermet

    why they resigned Cora AND gave him a vesting option is beyond me. i mean he seems like a good guy and he once was good defensively (nearly a decade ago now), but how do you give this guy 4 million over 2 seasons (and potentially 6 million over 3) when he’s probably worth the league minimum at most? minaya just kills me with his lack of understanding of basic monetary principles. i’m rooting for Tejada mainly for the defense. i just hope he isn’t overmatched with the bat…he was solid at Bingy but AA-MLB is a big jump for a 20 year old.

    maybe there’s a positive to this whole thing…without Reyes, the team gets off to a bad start and Manuel and Minaya get canned. hey…a guy can dream, right?

  3. theperfectgame

    How about the other costs associated with giving the job to each player:

    Roster moves:
    Cora – None. He’s already on the 40-man roster and was a lock to go north with the club as part of the 25-man roster.
    Tejada – He will have to be added to the 40-man roster, meaning someone else will have to be cut (or moved to the 60-day DL) from the Mets’ currently full 40-man roster.

    The Future:
    Cora – No effect.
    Tejada – If he breaks camp with the Mets and doesn’t spend the entire year on the 25-man roster or DL, he will have to be optioned back to the minors, marking 2010 as his first option year.

    The whole decision shouldn’t be based on this, but it should factor in. I mean, if Tejada is just a marginal gain on defense, then I would say bringing him up isn’t worth the roster move and the burned option year. I’d also argue that if Reyes is (for real) expected back in April, then it isn’t worth it either.

    Although I guess if the Mets don’t feel as though Tejada will ever be more than a backup infielder, maybe it does make sense to call him up now. Although I’ll echo Ted Berg’s sentiment that if the Mets don’t trust Cora to play short in Reyes’ absence, why exactly is he on the team?

    1. Toby Hyde

      All of those costs exist certainly, and there’s also the bit about if Tejada actually ends up playing a lot he could be arb eligible a year early as a super 2 if he starts the season in the big leagues.

      The Mets have a spot or two open on their 40-man roster currently. Reyes seems likely to miss at least a week of the season, and maybe even the whole first month-and-a-half so the length of time he’ll miss will matter too, I suppose. If he’s really going to be just out a week, the Mets could probably live with Cora, but if it’s longer they need to be more aggressive about putting the best team on the field, option years be damned.

    2. NateW

      If they give Tejada the job then Anderson Hernandez will be cut, soting them no extra 40 man roster spots.

      looking at those numbers you can make the case that AH should be starting over Cora as well. The defense will be a tad worse than Cora, but AH does seem to hit a bit when he plays regularly now. And that would leave Cora on the bench in the role most appropriate for him.

      So bringing back Cora and Tatis for the bench left them with no decent SS glove on the bench… I thought we all saw that coming this past October… Omar?

  4. NickM

    It has to be Tejada, just for his defense. I doubt Cora would out-hit Tejada enough to justify starting anyway; the guy has a career OPS of .658 and hes coming off a putrid .630 OPS season, with 2 consecutive seasons of below average defense at SS. Plus, Pelfrey will surely pull his hair out with a Cora/Castillo middle infield.

    1. NateW

      yup, it can’t be any worse than Anderson Hernandez was as the regular 2B in 2006. Unfortunately it means relying on Castillo to be a productive top of the order bat as neither Cora or Tejada can do that.

  5. Great Scott

    If the decision is to go with Tejada, which does make the most sense, having Cora as his mentor is well worth the extra money. Everyone should stop crying about the extra money Cora is getting. He will make Tejada a better player with things that will never show up on the stat sheet.
    Remember Joe McEwing, he was an over paid utility player for the Mets and if you ask David Wright to this day will praise McEwing for helping make his first half season with the Mets much easier.
    As far as paying Tejada more as a possible super 2, if you play him now you will not have to pay Cora next year. The money will probably wash in the end.

    1. ihob

      I’m sick of this idea that it helps to pay guys to just because they are good team guys and great for the clubhouse. Thats a bunch of balogne, what really makes a clubhouse great is winning. The fact of the matter is that we’ve paid Julio Franco, Marlon Anderson and now Alex Cora far too much money to just be a minimal contributor to the team. A 25 man roster is not something to just give up a spot because of the mentoring value they provide to the team.

      I want a guy who will contribute to the teams success in the wins column, thats the most important stat. Who is going to keep runs off the board and who will help put them on it, not who will be the mentor of the locker room. Isn’t that what coaches are for? If we need to use up a roster spot for this then obviously its time to start ditching coaches because it is their sole pupose to guide the players through the long arduous season, physically and mentally.

      It’s sad that I agree with mistermet on the statement at the end of his comment.

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