On Monday, the Yankees signed infielder Ruben Tejada to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp. He is most known for his years with the Mets as he was drafted by them in 2006 and then made his debut in 2010 and spent the first six years of his career with the Metropolitans.
On March, 15 of 2016, the Mets placed Tejada on waivers and released him the next day. After clearing waivers, the 27-year-old from Panama, signed a one-year contract worth $1.5 million with the St. Louis Cardinals. He ended up playing in 23 games for the Cardinals last season and 13 games for the San Francisco Giants.
Tejada was expected to take over for the injured Jhonny Paralta at shortstop but Tejada sustained an injury of his own in the final spring training game before the season, which put him on the disabled list. This caused him to become a back-up at third, shortstop and second in the games he appeared in. After not having much success, he became a free agent at the end of May after declining his outright assignment.
The Giants signed him on June 13, and he was in their minor league system until being called up on June 29 when he started at third for the injured Matt Duffy. Out of his 13 games that he appeared in with the Giants, he started at third in nine of those while committing two errors. He also only had five hits in his 32 at-bats (.156) before being designated for assignment to make room for starting pitcher Matt Cain.
He played for Panama’s national baseball team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament.
Tejada, who is known for his defense and versatility in the field, idolized Yankee great shortstop and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter as well Omar Vizquel, who is one of the best defensive shortstops of all time. Tejada will now get to appear at the same shortstop position for the Yankees that Jeter did.
His best season came in 2012 as a 22-year-old. He was the team’s starting shortstop after Jose Reyes signed with the Miami Marlins in the offseason. Tejada played in 114 games and had a career-high 464 at-bats. He had a solid .289 average with one homer, four steals, 25 RBIs, 26 doubles and 134 hits.
Tejada also played 964.2 innings at shortstop in 2012 and had a very good .974 fielding percentage, and in 2014 when he played 939.1 innings at short he had an even better .984 fielding percentage (eight errors).
After sustaining a strained right quad in 2013 and missing much of the season, his average declined in both 2014 and 2015. In the 2015 season, he had a 23 doubles, 28 RBI and a .261 average. That season he played in 81 games at short (.982 fielding percentage), 19 at third (.962 fielding percentage) and 13 at second (1.000 fielding percentage). However, what he is most remembered for is what happened in the 2015 National League Division Series.
The last play of his career with the Mets was when he broke his leg as a result of Chase Utley’s overly aggressive slide into second. Tejada’s career has trended downward since then. Utley’s hard slide into second when Tejada was trying to turn the double play caused him to be out for the rest of the playoffs and led to new rules governing how players are allowed to slide into second.
The Yankees have Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius as starters at second and shortstop, respectively, but Tejada could serve as a valuable back-up infielder because he can reliably play second, short and third. Based on last season, Castro and Gregorius will perform better than the average shortstop and second baseman on offense, which can make Tejada a useful back-up middle infielder who can also play third when Chase Headley gets a day off. Joe Girardi likes his back-up players to be able to play different positions on defense and that is exactly what Tejada does.
The diminutive Ronald Torreyes performed well overall last season as the backup infielder in his first season with the Yankees. It seems imminent that there will be a competition between Tejada and Torreyes for the backup infielder spot in spring training. Torreyes played in 72 games last year, had a .258 average and had a .978 fielding percentage. He started games at third (27), shortstop (11) and third (nine).
There is no risk in this move because if he outperforms Torreyes then Tejada will likely be the backup infielder and if not then Tejada will probably request to be waived. Tejada could be the favorite because he is the veteran and has started.