It's hard to fault Alderson for refusing to trade one of the best all-around players in baseball, especially when he's still in his prime. However, Reyes will be a free agent at the end of the season and it's debatable if the Mets will be able to sign him to an eight-figure contract.
Even if Alderson does manage to bring back his superstar shortstop, what's the long-term plan? Are the Mets really that close to contending for a championship, or are they just prolonging a long overdue rebuilding project?
Let's take a look.
Reyes the Great
Reyes, 28, has bounced back after two injury-plagued seasons to become one of the best players in baseball.
He leads the league in runs (72), hits (132), triples (16) and batting (.352). He's not very far behind the league leader in steals (31) and OPS (.924), and he's the hardest man to strike out in all of baseball while playing at a premium position. In other words, he's the total package.
We know that owner Fred Wilpon doesn't think that Reyes is worth Carl Crawford-money; however, seven years and $142 million might be a bargain price for the shortstop. An annual salary of $20 million to $25 million over eight or more years wouldn't be a surprise, even for a guy with as extensive of an injury history as Reyes.
The Mets are a big-market team so they are certainly one of the few clubs that can afford Reyes. However, just because there's money to spend doesn't mean that the Mets should spend it.
The NL East
Timing is a big part of any team's championship aspirations and, unfortunately for the Mets, the NL East is one of the toughest divisions in baseball, and it's only going to get better.
The Phillies have the best record in all of baseball and a rotation that only All-Star Game managers could possibly hope for. The foursome of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt is sighed through at least 2012. Even if Oswalt has to prematurely retire the Phillies still have Vince Worley (23, 2.02 ERA) and Kyle Kendrick (26, 3.45 ERA) ready to take his place.
The scariest part is that the Phillies, even after the Halladay and Oswalt trades, still have one of the best farm systems in baseball (see: Brown, Domonic). So even with Jimmy Rollins (2011), Shane Victorino (2012) and Chase Utley (2013) nearing the end of their contracts, the Phillies can simply reload and come back stronger than ever without hardly missing a beat.
The Braves, meanwhile, have the best pitching staff in baseball and four more high-upside arms (Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado) waiting in the minors.
Add that to a core of Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, Martin Prado and Freddie Freeman and you have the makings of an outstanding team that should be able to compete for at least the next five years, and that's not even accounting for whichever big bat the Braves might acquire at the deadline or in the offseason.
The Nationals, typically in the cellar of the NL East, are also on the verge of turning a corner. In case you've missed it, the Nationals have snagged arguably the top talent in each of the last three drafts: Stephen Strasburg (2009), Bryce Harper (2010) and Anthony Rendon (2011).
It may take a ocuple of years before this triumvirates joins current Nationals stars Ryan Zimmerman (26), Danny Espinosa (24), Wilson Ramos (23), Michael Morse (29), Jayson Werth (32) and Jordan Zimmerman (25), but the potential is through the roof.
The Nationals haven't been shy about spending money (see: Werth, Jayson) and aren't bogged down by multiple major contracts (just $45 in committed salaries for 2012), meaning they'll be able to keep their best players through arbitration while stick picking up free agents. There may not be a team in baseball with a better long-term outlook than the Nationals.
Even the Marlins are in arguably a better position than the Mets. The Marlins have their own star shortstop in Hanley Ramirez, a handful of blossoming stars (Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez) and an actual ace in Josh Johnson.
The Marlins are also in a fantastic financial position with only two major contracts on the roster (Ramirez and Johnson) and a new ballpark ready for 2012 that should help boost payroll.
Jose Reyes might be one of the best players in baseball, but he can't carry the Mets alone. At this rate the Mets would be lucky to not finish last in the division, let alone make the playoffs.
Examining the Mets
The Mets have a payroll of nearly $143 million, or roughly $2 million for every win. They get a ton of financial relief next year with Carlos Beltran ($20 million) and Francisco Rodriguez ($12 million) leaving, but what are they supposed to do with that money?
The two biggest free agents are Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, and neither makes sense for the Mets with Ike Davis manning first base. They could get Michael Cuddyer, Ryan Ludwick or Josh Willingham to play right field, but any of those players would still be a downgrade from Carlos Beltran.
The rotation is in decent shape with Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee manning the top three spots and Johan Santana expected back soon, but that still projects as one of the worst rotations in the division. There aren't too many attractive free-agent starters either (C.J. Wilson?) and the Mets aren't in a position to be sacrificing draft picks.
So what's the point of bringing back Reyes?
The Mets may be able to field a decent team and sell some tickets, but the playoffs are a pipe dream. Reyes would spend the best years of his career playing for, at best, a .500 team.
If the Mets actually want to compete any time this decade they need to completely start over, and that means trading Reyes, David Wright, Angel Pagan and even Santana if he's healthy. Other teams have done it before and the results are surprisingly reassuring. Just look at what the Rays did, or what the Indians, Pirates and Diamondbacks are doing this season.
The Mets may be an exception because they're a big-market team, but all the money in the world can't buy enough wins to get past the teams ahead of them in the division (just ask the Yankees or Cubs).
It's time to admit failure, Sandy.
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