J.P. Ricciardi says Mets are happy with Ruben Tejada at shortstop

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There’s been a lot of speculation this winter about free agent shortstop Stephen Drew potentially landing with the Mets, but the team has publicly thrown their support behind Ruben Tejada in recent weeks. Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi is the latest example, saying on WEEI’s “Hot Stove Show” that the team is happy with the idea of going into 2014 with Tejada as the starting shortstop.

“I think we are,” said Ricciardi when asked if the Mets were happy with heading into 2014 with the 24-year-old Tejada. ‘€œHe’€™s a young player. As Johnny can tell you, a lot of young players who get to play at the big league level early in their career, a lot of them don’€™t realize how hard it is to play every day. A lot of them don’€™t realize what it takes to play every day. I think in Ruben’€™s case, he got a lot early in his career and I think he’€™s starting to realize that he has to work a lot harder than he has in the past, and he has. To his credit, he really has. But as a young player, they get to the big leagues, some things happen for them and they forget how tough it is to stay there. I think he’€™s at that stage in his career. I think next year he’€™s going to be a better player than he was this previous year.”

Tejada is coming off a nightmare season in which he batted just .202 with a .519 OPS in 202 plate appearances. The 24-year-old spent a long stretch of time in the minors after a quad injury and suffered a broken fibula after he rejoined the team in September. Still, he hit .287 with a .345 on-base percentage between 2011-2012, so a rebound isn’t out of the question. The Mets clearly haven’t given up on him, as they sent him to a fitness camp earlier this offseason, but there’s still a chance that Drew could fall into their laps if his market dwindles. As Ricciardi said, “there’€™s just not a lot of demand for shortstops” at the moment.

While Drew remains a possibility, the Mets could cross their fingers with Tejada in 2014 while waiting for next offseason when J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie will all be free agents.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.