By Ernie Palladino
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Sandy Alderson decided months ago to make his 2015 bed with Wilmer Flores as his starting shortstop. Now that things have turned rather lumpy over there, with no real prospects of swapping out the whole mattress, it’s time at least for a new set of sheets.
This is not the time of year for white sales around the league, so the choice of new linens remains limited. If anything, the demand for Alderson’s rich closet of pitching talent will remain just as expensive and, probably, intensify unless the always budget-conscious Mets willingly eat whole contracts of trade targets.
In essence, the White Sox’s Alexei Ramirez, the Rays’ Asdrubal Cabrera, the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki, the Cubs’ Starlin Castro, and the Dodgers’ Jimmy Rollins are not coming here. Alderson didn’t make a strong move for any of those guys in the offseason, though each was mentioned as a solidifying agent to a real shortstop deficiency. And now that the season has started, none of those teams are going to be quick to unload veteran know-how for anything less than a gaggle of young arms which lately have become even more valuable to the franchise.
Matt Reynolds, however, is right under their noses and won’t cost them more than a plane ticket to bring him in from Triple-A Las Vegas. The Mets don’t have any immediate plans to bring him up, but they should. It would be a shame if they squandered the 17-10 mark they hold going into Wednesday’s game against the Orioles because of weak defensive play up the middle and below-par offense from the man they thought would at least hit.
Flores is back from a two-game benching to clear his head from the maelstrom of mistakes he’s made over the past few games, so consider this the beginning of a trial period. He doubled, scored and didn’t produce an error on Tuesday. If he doesn’t keep it together offensively and defensively, the Mets may have no other choice than to call up Reynolds, who has five fewer errors in 20 games in Vegas than Flores’ team-high seven in 23 games up here.
While Flores has allowed his fielding problems to carry over to his hitting — he’s down to .244/.280/.397 — Reynolds is thriving at the plate. He’s at .327/.388/.525 with two homers, 12 doubles, and 25 RBIs.
The Mets’ one move to bulk up the middle defense is in its formative stages as Dilson Herrera has taken over at second, a fielding upgrade over the spotty Daniel Murphy, who will remain anchored at third until David Wright gets back. Until Herrera proves he’s the answer at second, though, Juan Lagares stands as the middle defense’s only strong point in center as he flashes almost every game his Gold Glove worthiness.
Good teams have strong defense up the middle. Reuniting Reynolds with Herrera may not give them an impervious alignment, but it would be a step in the right direction absent a long-time veteran shortstop. Reynolds is said to have limited range, like Flores. But, unlike the incumbent, Reynolds makes the routine play.
In other words, he won’t be kicking games away as Flores did last week against the Yanks. When you’re the Mets, even a fast start is not fast enough. Now that the injuries have started to mount up, the margin for error (in Flores’ case, errors) has narrowed.
The Mets simply cannot afford to give away games in the field, especially at a spot they should have addressed in the winter.
Flores has had his break. Terry Collins has done right by him in giving him a chance to step away, rest, and gather himself. His second trial period has begun.
It should not last as long as the first one.
If Flores can’t turn his season around in short order, Reynolds should get his shot.
It’s either him or a van full of talent for a veteran.
That bed Alderson made with Flores is starting to feel awfully lumpy. He should at least change the sheets.