The New York Mets had their six-game win steak snapped last night in a 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. They still showed the same fight and clutch pitching that had brought them to this point, but fell a bit short.
But no matter how well the Mets play, they have some tough decisions ahead.
Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran headline the list of players the Mets may look to trade if they fall out of contention. They're not in contention now of course, and general manager Sandy Alderson has stated that he's contacted several teams already to discuss their potential interests, but no one is willing to talk this early.
The Mets shouldn't be either, but Alderson is just doing his due diligence, and rightfully so.
Beltran is most assuredly going to be traded at some point this season, it's just a matter of to who and for what. He has shown an ability to play every day, something even the Mets weren't expecting when the season began, and he's been hitting well. For a contending team looking to add some pop, Beltran would be a valuable piece.
But Beltran's value pales in comparison to that of Reyes.
The Mets have quite a quandary on their hands. The better Reyes plays, the more valuable he becomes in a trade, not to mention the more expensive he becomes to resign. But he has the most value to the Mets, who have enjoyed his lead off services since 2005.
It's unknown whether Alderson and the Mets have both the desire and financial wherewithal to keep Reyes in Flushing.
But here are five reasons for and five reasons against resigning Reyes. The first five are pro-resigning, the last five are against.
Reyes is having a fantastic start to his season, which as we already discussed, is going to make it difficult to resign him.
Reyes is currently batting .321 with a team-high 35 hits. He's 8-for-10 in stolen base attempts.
He's certainly fulfilling his role as the Mets' leadoff man very well so far. Reyes is batting a scorching .391 in the first inning and he's been even better when leading off an inning, batting .409.
He's scored at least one run in eight of the Mets' 11 wins.
That's production the Mets need to keep in the lineup. Without Reyes, who's going to give them that kind of performance from the leadoff spot?
If Reyes were gone tomorrow, there aren't many replacements. Last season, Ruben Tejada appeared in 78 games for the Mets, mostly at second base. If they had to, the Mets would most likely use Tejada at shortstop. Tejada batted just .213 with a .305 OBP.
He scored just 28 runs in 216 at-bats. Reyes has scored 18 runs through just 109 at-bats already this season. Quite frankly, Tejada will never give the Mets anything close to what Reyes provides.
Tejada is playing shortstop at Triple-A Buffalo right now. He's batting ,293 with a .348 OBP through the first 22 games.
The Mets' top prospect, Wilmer Flores, is currently playing shortstop for Port St. Lucie. He's only 19 years old but has been mentioned as the next Miguel Cabrera.
Whether or not that's true is up for debate, but the general concensus is that Flores will not be able to remain in the infield as he matures. Most likely, he's not the answer at shortstop for the Mets.
Keeping Reyes can be seen as a necessary move if only because they lack a suitable replacement.
Before Wednesday's game against the Washington Nationals, Terry Collins called Reyes a "catalyst."
In the eighth inning of that game, Reyes was robbed of a triple when he was called out at third base.
Reyes went crazy and took his frustrations into the dugout. The emotion carried into Daniel Murphy, who hit a game-tying home run after the Reyes play.
The Mets went on to score four runs in the ninth inning to seal a 6-4 victory, their sixth straight at the time.
That's what Reyes does for this team. Even when he makes an out, good things can happen. Every Mets fan knows how important Reyes is to this offense.
For his career, Reyes has a .324 batting average in wins, compared to .244 in losses.
In 335 games from 2005-2008, Reyes scored at least one run. The Mets' record in those games? 237-98.
The numbers speak for themselves and you can't put a price on winning.
And just like the lack of a suitable replacement is a problem, the Mets aren't going to have that kind of production in the lineup for a long time if Reyes leaves.
Say what you want about Citi Field, but it's built for Jose Reyes.
Since it's opening in 2009, the Mets have tried to put as much speed into their lineup as possible.
Though Angel Pagan is on the DL right now, the combination of Pagan and Reyes at the top of the lineup gives the Mets a level of speed few teams can match.
The Mets are currently fourth in the NL in stolen bases (21), but have led the NL in each of the last two seasons. In 2008, they were second only to the Colorado Rockies.
There's nothing more exciting than a Reyes triple at Citi Field.
Since Citi Field opened in 2009, Reyes has collected 10 of his 14 triples at home.
Heck, even Jason Bay managed to hit six triples there last season.
Having Reyes in the lineup gives the Mets an excellent speed weapon that gives its biggest advantage at home. It's no coincidence that the Mets were 47-34 at home last season.
It's not easy being a Mets fan. Since Adam Wainwright's curveball in 2006, the Mets haven't given their fans much to be excited about.
For many fans, Reyes is the most exciting player on the team. In the big picture of baseball, Reyes is one of the most electric players.
No matter how well the Mets might play this season, if they're out of contention at the trade deadline, Alderson will start looking to move players and Reyes is at the top of the list.
But watching Reyes play the rest of his career for another team will just be another problem for fans to deal with.
Attendance is already way down, with the Mets having lost a reported $50 million last season.
How much worse will that be if they trade Reyes?
It certainly won't improve.
Okay, first things first. Jose Reyes is not Ryan Braun or Troy Tulowitzki and their situations are completely different than Reyes'.
But both Braun and Tulowitzki decided they loved playing for their respective teams so much, they were willing to skip free agency and sign new contracts.
Now, both Braun (five years, $105 million) and Tulowitzki (seven-years, $134 million) were extensions of their already existing contracts, as opposed to Reyes, who is set to become a free agent after this season.
But Braun and Tulowitzki demonstrated a desire to stay where they were, and in Braun's case, take potentially less money in the short-term.
Both the Braun and Tulowitzki extensions were big mistakes, but it's the fact that they both wanted to spend their entire careers with their respective teams that's important here.
Can the Mets pay Reyes as much as another team would? Probably not. But they'll make the best offer they can and Reyes would go a long way towards pleasing his fans by taking less money to stay with the Mets.
The Mets knew heading into this season that Reyes was going to cost a lot to resign if he stayed healthy. So far this season, Reyes is not only healthy, but he's producing.
If Reyes hits free agency, he's a $100 million player. And judging by what the Boston Red Sox gave Carl Crawford, Reyes is going to get it.
Alderson has openly admitted that the Mets payroll is "significantly" higher than he'd like and he wants flexibility in the future. Hopefully, "flexibility" means money to spend.
The Mets will have between $50-60 million coming off the books after this season, but if Alderson wants to lower payroll, it's unknown how much of that money will be reinvested in the team.
Additionally, news came out today that the Mets may be willing to grant a minority owner some decision-making ability when it comes to large expendtitures. Resigning Reyes certainly falls under that category. If the Mets add an owner before they come to Reyes to negotiate, it's unknown what power they'll have.
Alderson will most likely come to Reyes at some point during the season and make the largest offer he can and if Reyes turns it down, Alderson will begin exploring trade options.
Reyes is a fantastic talent, but Alderson has taken on the task of rebuilding a team which has thrown around big money like candy on Halloween. It's hard to imagine Alderson would use those same techniques to improve the Mets, even for Reyes.
One of the looming fears surrounding the Mets, aside from the fire sale, is how the Mets can fill out their roster after they start trading players.
Fans have watched players like Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda, and Jenry Mejia come up to the majors and struggle.
In the past, the Mets have adhered to the recommended slotting system and haven't spent big money. Over the last five drafts, the Mets have spent the second least in baseball.
There are excellent prospects in the system. Guys like Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Wilmer Flores are big time talents, but they're all at least two years away. Other than a September 2012 call-up, none of those players will be making an impact.
By trading Reyes, the Mets would be able to bring a solid haul of prospects to bulk up the farm.
Three or four players for Reyes should not be unexpected and at least half should be at Triple-A or major league ready.
The Red Sox and San Francisco Giants are two teams that will be interested in trading for Reyes and both can offer a nice combination of prospects and major league talent. Not to mention the Mets could certainly benefit from adding starting pitching, something both teams have to spare.
The benefits of trading Reyes while he's still in his prime may outweigh keeping him in the fold.
If there's any team that should be adverse to giving up long-term contracts, it's the Mets.
The Mets have watched two of their highest-paid players, Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana, spend much of their time on the DL.
If the Mets had been able to see into the future, it's hard to imagine they'd sign either player. But hindsight is, of course, 20/20.
Reyes will turn 28 years old on June 11. A new contract for Reyes would probably take him through age 34 and for a player that relies entirely on speed, that's a huge gamble.
It would be hard to watch Reyes become Derek Jeter--a past-his-prime shortstop making big money and not producing.
Now, I'm not in any way making a case that Reyes and Jeter are somehow comparable, but giving Reyes a six or seven year contract would be a mistake.
From 2005-2008, Reyes was one of the most durable players in baseball, making at least 153 starts every season.
But everyone gets older and Reyes has already spent the last two seasons fighting the injury bug. What's more alarming is that Reyes' injuries have been to his hamstring.
Having been burned in the past by long-term contracts, the Mets might not want to take the chance on Reyes.
Alderson comes from the Moneyball school, prizing OBP very highly. Despite his role as a leadoff man, Reyes' career OBP is only .336.
Even during his best seasons, his OBP never surpassed .354. It's hard to imagine Alderson wanting to keep Reyes on this team when he doesn't fit the mold that he likes.
Additionally, while Reyes may be the biggest factor in the Mets' offense, he has struggled to get the big hits.
For his career, Reyes has just a .268 batting average with RISP, two out. In the so-called "clutch stats," Reyes hasn't fared well. He's batting .274 in both late and close situations and when behind.
Are those the numbers of a $100 million player? Maybe, maybe not. But it comes down to Alderson. While Reyes is hard to replace as a leadoff batter, he's not hard to replace as an RBI producer.
Granted, that's not his job, but there are still times when he's had to drive in runs and he's failed to do so.
This would be a combination of the four previous slides. The Mets have had a core of David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran and have only won one division title.
This group has not produced when it counts and hasn't consistently performed. Both Reyes and Beltran have dealt with injuries in recent season and Wright, for the most part has been consistent with the exception of 2009.
There's no reason why trading Reyes would suddenly condemn the Mets to the baseball for all eternity. Perhaps Reyes had his chance to win, failed to do so, and fans should simply thank him for the good times and say goodbye.
Having players finish their careers with one team is always nice to see, but Reyes' next contract might not be his last, so this decision will either come now or years from now.
No one knows what the future holds for this team, but so far the blueprint has not been working and with a new general manager and manger in place, the Mets might decide that Reyes had his time and it's best to move on.
It might sound cold and it might be harsh, but if everything the Mets have done up to this point has yielded nothing, perhaps it's time to try something new.