By Ernie Palladino
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Feel bad for Ruben Tejada.
First, he takes a 94 MPH fastball to the head in Seattle on Wednesday, and then gets to read about a trade possibility for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Such are the pitfalls of playing your pro baseball in Flushing. You get a few brain cells rattled and then you fall victim to the upgrade dreams of a disenchanted fan base.
Tejada isn’t blameless in all this, of course. He came into the season bearing huge question marks, few of which have been answered adequately. He is hitting .235 overall, but only .160 over his last 10 games. He does have 44 walks, ranking him second behind Curtis Granderson’s 56, but it’s hard to get excited about that.
Now think about how Tulowitzki might transform that lineup. He leads the majors with a .340 batting average. Hits for power, too, as his 21 homers this year marks the fifth 20-plus homer season in his 10-year career. Just the power numbers alone are enough to have fans salivating.
But now reality seeps in. Putting aside for the moment that he’s off to the disabled list again with a left hip flexor injury after missing 282 games the previous six years, the Rockies are into him for a lot of money. That means if the Mets were to trade for him, they’d be into him for a lot of money. With six years and $118 million remaining on his contract, it’s hard to believe the Wilpons would put together the desired package of high-profile prospects for an expensive All-Star who could well get hurt again.
As everybody knows by now, the Wilpons love to spend money about as much as most people love unanesthetized root canals. Still, if there was a team in New York that could afford to take that risk, and probably should at least send out a feeler, it is the Mets. For all the excitement of Bartolo Colon’s brush with a perfect game Wednesday, this is still a moribund group that, by rights, should have started looking at building for next year about three weeks ago.
Having Tulowitzki around would give the Mets a lot more credibility than they have now. He might even draw some people into the stands.
Then again, it’s hard to think that Tulowitzki would be a happy camper if he landed in Citi Field. That place isn’t exactly the comfortable launching pad he now sits in at Coors Field. If he’d be happy with any New York team, it would be the Yankees. The Stadium is far more friendly to hitters. Besides that, he’d be succeeding his boyhood idol, Derek Jeter, the sole reason he wears No. 2 on his back.
You just can’t discount the coolness factor.
The Yanks don’t have enough prospects to pull off that trade. But the Mets do. They’re flush with pitching, so it wouldn’t hurt them to at least dangle a Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard, packaged with a veteran like Jon Niese or Dillon Gee, and see what happens.
Either that, or the Mets will just have to stick with Tejada or Wilmer Flores at shortstop. Forever. Or at least until the next attractive long shot appears on the trade scene.
That’s not a lot to get excited about. At 48-54, 8.5 games behind NL East-leader Washington, the fourth-place Mets could use a big trade to get their fans excited for next year, if not for the remainder of 2014.
It might be worth it for Sandy Alderson to invest a call out to Denver. It’s a long shot, but a risk worth taking.
In the meantime, it’s all right to feel just a little sorry for Tejada. He’s trying. He’s taken a fastball to the head. All the early signs show he’ll be back to get after it again.
There’s just no comparison between him and an offensive star like Tulowitzki.
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