JUPITER, Fla. — Ruben Tejada’s tumultuous Mets tenure appears to be coming to an end after the club placed him on waivers, industry sources confirmed Tuesday.
The Mets stand to save $3 million if Tejada is claimed by another club. If he goes unclaimed, the Mets could release him and pay just a portion of his salary: $500,000.
A move has been in the works. The Mets had explored trades for Tejada but apparently did not find a willing partner.
“He came in in great shape, he’s played very well, he’s swung the bat good,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “We’ll just wait to see what’s going on.”
Tejada, 26, hit .261 with three home runs, 28 RBIs and 36 runs in 116 games last season. He initially ceded the starting job to Wilmer Flores, though he found himself back in the role by season’s end.
Tejada’s year ended in pain thanks to Chase Utley’s infamous takeout slide in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Entering the season, Tejada’s role again appeared to be diminished. The Mets signed free-agent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and traded for veteran second baseman Neil Walker. The moves put Tejada behind Flores as the team’s top utilityman off the bench.
Even with Cabrera dealing with a knee injury that could keep him on the disabled list on Opening Day, the Mets signaled their belief that they can move on without Tejada, who was scratched from Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Marlins.
Prospect Matt Reynolds, an infielder capable of playing short, is now in the mix to take the roster spot. Eric Campbell also could receive consideration.
Tejada hit .271 with a .336 on-base percentage from 2010 to 2012. But after enduring a miserable 2013 season, he failed to hold onto the starting job at short. At various points, Tejada has also drawn the ire of the organization.
Collins once criticized him for not arriving at camp early enough, which then led to questions about his conditioning. Some of that frustration bubbled to the surface on Opening Day, when fans booed Tejada during introductions.
Now Tejada, fully healed from his broken ankle, appears destined for a fresh start elsewhere.
With Opening Day little more than two weeks away, the Mets’ roster is beginning to take shape.
“We’re getting some answers,” Collins said. “We’re still going to play a lot of guys. We’ve still got some spots open that need to get filled.”
Internally, the Mets still are weighing whether Kevin Plawecki would be better served getting playing time at Triple-A Las Vegas rather than serving as Travis d’Arnaud’s backup. A source said that the Mets also are exploring the trade market in hopes of bolstering their catching depth.
As it stands, Johnny Monell would be in line to serve as d’Arnaud’s backup if Plawecki starts the season in the minors.
While Tejada looks to be on the move, a source said that the Mets are leaning toward keeping veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who had once been believed to be a prime trade candidate. Instead, De Aza could be looked upon to give the Mets a veteran pinch-hitting threat.
The Mets’ bullpen also is taking form.
Veteran righthander Jim Henderson has made a strong push for a roster spot. The former Brewers closer who has dealt with shoulder issues in recent years signed a minor-league deal during the winter with a small chance to make the team.
But scouts have clocked his fastball at 95 mph, a sign that he’s healthy. Meanwhile, a source said that the Mets remain open to the idea of not carrying a long reliever to start the season, which would make it easier for Henderson to snag one of two remaining relief spots.
The Mets also announced cuts before the game, which included hard-throwing lefthanded reliever Josh Smoker, who entered camp with an outside shot of claiming a bullpen spot. Among the other cuts: highly regarded prospects Dilson Herrera and Gabriel Ynoa and former first-round draft picks Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini and Dominic Smith.
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