Since the season began, there has been speculation that the Mets would look to trade their star shortstop Jose Reyes by the July 31 trading deadline to try and begin rebuilding the franchise under new general manager Sandy Alderson.
When the San Francisco Giants visited Queens for a series in early May, rumors started flying that Giants GM Brian Sabean was in early talks for a trade involving Reyes. Those rumors were silenced quickly, but the theme of the Mets season persisted.
To trade or not to trade? That is the question.
The general consensus from local media is that Alderson doesn't have any interest in paying Reyes upwards of $100 million, which he's almost sure to command on the open market. Reyes is a fast, switch-hitting shortstop with good defensive range and a certain flair in his attitude that can be certainly uplifting for a team.
He's a solid leadoff hitter with the bat to either direct hits for sharp singles or to lift them into the gap for doubles or stretched triples. Although it may make sense to some for the Mets to trade Reyes, it almost seems that the team would be hurt more than helped by any such deal.
An examination of trades involving superstars or even less bright stars shows that the recipient of the bigger name almost always comes out on the better side of the deal. A notable recent example is Johan Santana.
What should the Mets do with Reyes?
For Santana, the Mets traded outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. Gomez is in Milwaukee, Humber is with the White Sox, Mulvey is in Arizona and Guerra is the lone part of the deal still with the Twins organization, pitching for the AA New Britain Rock Cats.
Although Santana has had injury issues with the Mets, it's clear who got the better end of that deal.
So why trade Reyes for a package of prospects that might never contribute to the franchise?
Some might argue that if Alderson isn't inclined to shell out for Reyes that it's better to get something back for him in a trade than nothing in free agency. This idea was used twice by the Cleveland Indians in successive years, dealing CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee in midseason trades to ensure that the franchise had at least some sort of return for their would-be aces.
The Mets are not the Indians. Despite the current legal battle that the Wilpon family is engaged in, the Mets still have the money to pay quality players. Yes, the contract of Carlos Beltran will be up after this year and yes, manager Terry Collins may tweak the bullpen late in the year to make sure the massive option for Francisco Rodriguez doesn't kick in.
But Reyes brings more than his baseball skills to the team. He's a face of the franchise in his ninth season with the team after making his debut in a game in Arlington in 2002. He is a fan favorite and helps to keep fans in the seats at Citi Field, even though attendance has dropped.
He's hitting .318 with a home run, 15 RBI and 17 steals. The Mets don't look despondent. Once the walking wounded return from the DL, the Mets have a likely lineup of Reyes, Pagan, Wright, Beltran, Davis, Bay, Turner and Thole. That's a lineup that could contend for the NL wild card in 2011.
Even if the Mets don't win the wild card this season, Reyes (and Wright, but that's a different story) are vital to the team. They bring too much to the table to simply trade them away and hope for the best with the prospects received or on the farm.
Sandy Alderson needs to pay up. Without Reyes, the Mets won't be a contender anytime soon.