Yesterday, Terry Collins talked about putting Ronny Cedeno and Ruben Tejada into a platoon. This comes on the heels of looking to get Kelly Shoppach more playing time against righties at catcher, at the expense of Josh Thole, and Justin Turner more regular time at second base, at the expense of Daniel Murphy.
Interestingly, Collins’ suggestion that Turner could play at Murphy’s expense hasn’t come to pass: Murphy has played the last four games at second base. I’d be surprised if that didn’t come from an edict at higher levels. And hopefully, the same will be true of things like a Tejada/Cedeno platoon and playing Shoppach regularly.
To understand why, please move beyond the recent struggles of Murphy, Tejada and Thole. 2012 is not the issue. 2012 is gone. No team with a bit of common sense in the Mets’ position is worried about 2012. These games exist to plan for 2013 and beyond.
With that in mind, what do Tejada, Thole and Murphy have in common? All three are under team control for 2013. Turner is, too, but he’s pretty clearly established that his limited defense and mediocre-at-best offense suits him to a utility role. And both Shoppach and Cedeno are free agents at season’s end, with long veteran track records identifying them: Shoppach is a catcher who should face lefties only, Cedeno is a defensive replacement whose 2012 offense is unlikely to ever be repeated again.
So with the idea that 2012 is to collect data for 2013, Tejada, Thole and Murphy ought to play as often as possible. Incidentally, that doesn’t change if they struggle- it is more important to see if they can weather those struggles.
After all, the 2013 Mets don’t make a ton of sense unless Tejada can play shortstop every day, Murphy can do the same at second base, and Thole can at least hold onto the left side of a catching platoon. And it is an open question as to whether any of them can last a full season. Murphy last played a full year in 2009; he’s at 126 games this season, after 109 last year. Tejada slowed down considerably in September last season, a year in which he played a combined 150 games between New York and Buffalo.
And Thole, simply put, hasn’t looked remotely like a major league hitter since returning from his latest concussion. If he’s healthy, he needs to get the chance to hit his way out of it. If he isn’t, he should not be playing, period.
Again, if these three players get rested here and there, that’s fine. I’m not suggesting they should be run into the ground. But the default really ought to be utilizing all three of them for next season. Nothing else makes any sense, given what the Mets know and what they need to find out.