MIAMI -- Seeking to spark their stagnant offense, the Mets have made a shakeup at shortstop.
The team officially announced that Wilmer Flores, the organization's fourth-ranked player on MLB.com's 2014 Prospect Watch, will join the Mets in advance of Friday's game. The Mets designated infielder Omar Quintanilla for assignment Wednesday to clear roster space.
Though Flores has played mostly second and third base in recent years, the Mets tried him out extensively at shortstop this winter to see if he could handle the position. A natural shortstop as a teenager in his native Venezuela, Flores moved from the position two years ago amidst concerns about his defensive range.
Those issues still linger. Flores has committed seven errors in 25 games at shortstop for Triple-A Las Vegas, a rate that would extrapolate to 45 miscues over a 162-game season. Scouts remain skeptical about his long-term viability at the position.
For the Mets, however, such apprehensions pale in comparison to the offensive issues currently plaguing them -- and Flores' greatest strength is unquestionably his bat. After hitting 15 homers and 36 doubles in 107 games last year at Vegas, Flores already has 11 extra-base hits in 28 games this season, with a .307 average and an .860 OPS. Over his last 10 games he has been even better, batting .469 with a .485 on-base percentage and .938 slugging mark. Four of Flores' five home runs have come since May 2.
The Mets, who rank 29th in baseball in extra-base hits and OPS, could use that sort of production. Incumbent shortstop Ruben Tejada is batting .188 with a .521 OPS in 96 plate appearances, dampening hopes that he might develop into a productive offensive player after a winter of fitness work under team supervision. Tejada remains a far better defender than Flores, but he is also far from elite at the position.
It was not immediately clear how the Mets plan to deploy their new shortstop duo, but manager Terry Collins has said in the past that Flores should be in the Majors only if he is playing every day. The Mets have also clearly grown disenchanted with Tejada over the past two years, with general manager Sandy Alderson going as far as to criticize him publicly last summer. But Alderson nonetheless declined to replace him over the offseason, despite flirting with free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew and engaging in trade talks with multiple teams.
Quintanilla had also been struggling with a .208 average and a .499 OPS in 31 plate appearances. He has spent parts of the last three seasons in New York, filling in for Tejada frequently due to injuries.
Flores appeared in 27 games for the Mets last season and one earlier this year, but he did not play shortstop on any of those occasions.