With just days until the non-waiver trade deadline, the likelihood that Jose Reyes is dealt to another team gets even more scarce.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson uncharacteristically asserted that he couldn't foresee dealing the franchise's brightest talent.
There have been two distinct reactions to the news. Some expressed joy. Others, disappointment. The latter alleges that Alderson is favoring sentiment over sensibility. Some believe Reyes is bound to leave.
Not so fast. Let's explore why the Mets need to keep Jose Reyes.
Saying Reyes’ skill set is rare in today’s game would be an understatement.
It would be a challenge to name one player that combines Reyes’ prowess at the plate (.347, .387, .519), speed on the base paths (32 SB, 16 triples), and stellar defensive play at one of the more prominent defensive positions (he’s made 11 errors, but a cardboard cutout of Ike Davis would be better at first than Daniel Murphy).
If you part with a player of his caliber (even at his career norms), the chances of replacing what he brings to a roster are nil. There’s simply no guarantee that any haul the Mets rake on a trade will aide the team in the multifaceted ways Reyes alone does.
Trading Reyes now signals two things: the Mets are finished for this season and for the conceivable future.
We’re not suggesting that you defy common sense: The 2011 Mets will be golfing in just two months time. But understand the psyche of the Mets fan in 2011. It’s more important than ‘outsiders’ suggest.
The hiring of Sandy Alderson as GM was just the first step in rebuilding trust with a wounded fan base. Even Alderson, an executive who has a history of preferring players with high OBP and power, managed to come around and realize Reyes’ importance.Trading Reyes now not only endangers the take at the gate this season, which the Mets certainly can not endure financially, but it hampers their efforts on selling this team going forward.
With season ticket enrollment crumbling, this would be devastating for 2011 and 2012.
Reyes’ future has been speculated ad nauseam since the season’s inception. First, he was too injury prone to warrant a long-term deal. Then he began to post MVP statistics, thereby making his retention impossible. Then management had a change of heart and reached out to make an offer (talks were refused). What are the chances he stays a Met?
It depends on the market.
Reyes prefers the Mets and has not hesitated to say so at every turn. This is the organization he signed with at 16, the one he grew up in. And this never changed even after principle owner Fred Wilpon’s ridiculous outburst in New York Magazine.
There may not be a hometown discount, but the Mets will be given some slack by Reyes’ team when negotiations commence. Reyes will also have to be fairly realistic. The teams willing to toss the now-famous ‘Carl Crawford money’ at him will be limited, especially with the Red Sox and Yankees not involved in the bidding. Consider also his injury history and familiarity, and the price range could be within the Mets favor.
Reyes already counts toward $11 million of the Mets payroll this season. An increase of $9 million per, with almost $50 million coming off the books (despite a payroll reduction looming), isn’t prohibitive.
The last time an in-his-prime shortstop that even approached Reyes’s talent reached free agency, Rafael Furcal signed with the LA Dodgers.
There are simply not many above-average shortstops in today’s game. The remaining few have been locked up long term (Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki).
As said previously, Reyes’ skill set is quite rare. The Mets in-house replacement for him would be Ruben Tejada or a vastly overmatched Wilmer Flores (a prospect scouts now hint will be moved from SS to the OF), neither of which is the second coming. Since the Mets would only ‘break the bank’ for Reyes, we can’t expect them to replace this position with anything but an average talent.
At times it seems like Reyes has been around forever. He broke into the majors at age 20 back in 2003. He’s an eight-year veteran and still only 28 years old.
While his game is based on his legs, and those are the 'first to go' (see: Beltran, Carlos) it’s not outrageous to suggest he has several more years of production ahead of him.
Reyes averaged 158 games played from 2005 thru 2008. He has the ability to play several full seasons in succession. Nobody said there wasn't risk attached. No potential long-term deal comes without significant risk in the world of guaranteed contracts. But the Mets have to hope they're getting the 2005 to 2008 Reyes with a little splash of 2011.
What does it say internally when a New York-market team refuses to retain its best talent?
If you’re a prospect in the Mets farm system, what can you expect if they parse the roster down to a collection of Quadruple-A players? Do you have long-term faith in the franchise, and the willingness to sign future contracts? If you're Zach Wheeler, do you believe your future is bright, or is this just a 'bump in the road'?
The Mets rehabilitation of their image isn’t just with its fans, but with the organization as a whole. They have to prove that there is a commitment to winning. While the return on a Reyes trade would have helped their future, there is no collection of players that can replace what he brings to this team both physically and emotionally.
Should Reyes sign a contract with another team, there will be draft-pick compensation. And maybe that makes the 2017 Mets a World Series contender. By then, Reyes could be approaching 3,000 hits. But for whom?