At the end of the 2011 season, the Mets' front office will have a very big decision to make: Should they re-sign star shortstop Jose Reyes? Or should they let him test the free-agent market?
In a way, it would make perfect sense for the Mets to re-sign Reyes. He has been the catalyst of the team ever since his breakout season in 2005. Reyes brings a lot of positive energy to the field and he is arguably one of the top shortstops in all of baseball. Furthermore, he has been having a career season in 2011, so does this mean that he may have more similar seasons to come?
On the other hand, there are potential drawbacks to re-signing Reyes. He is most likely going to demand a contract in the five- or six-year and $100-120 million range. Due to the lawsuit against Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon and team president Saul Katz, the Mets may not have enough to both re-sign Reyes and make other upgrades to the major league roster.
General manager Sandy Alderson, according to The Newark Star-Ledger, "maintains a reluctance for long-term contracts with players approaching their 30s." Reyes is currently 28 years of age and will likely be 33 or 34 when his next contract expires.
The other factor is that the Mets will not be the only team going after Reyes this winter. Being that he will most likely be the best shortstop on the free-agent market, his demand could be very high from a good number of teams. Here are five other teams that are likely to make a push towards signing Reyes.
Current Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro's contract is up after this season. Backup Jed Lowrie could fill in next year, and there's also the 21-year-old top prospect Jose Iglesias, who is waiting in the minor leagues.
Nonetheless, the Red Sox have been known to stock up the best players available, so do not be surprised if they offer Reyes a large contract. They dished out big contracts to both Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez in the last offseason. Adding Reyes as the new shortstop would give the Red Sox the best overall infield in baseball.
Theo Epstein is one of the younger, yet more intelligent general managers around. If the Yankees, for example, make a big signing this offseason, look for the Red Sox to try and recruit Reyes.
The San Francisco Giants are definitely another team that could make a big push towards signing Jose Reyes.
The Giants have already released the aging Miguel Tejada, with Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot splitting time at shortstop. Crawford has been projected as the shortstop of the future, but while his defense has always been smooth, his hitting has not been up to par.
The Giants could sign Reyes this offseason to let Crawford improve his hitting more in the minor leagues. If Crawford's hitting does improve, the Giants could also use him as a trade chip in the future.
Giants right fielder Carlos Beltran, who spent over six seasons with the Mets before getting traded this past July, will likely put in a good word about Reyes. The Beltran trade could definitely help the Giants lure Reyes onto their team. Furthermore, the Giants are currently the defending World Series champions and their team is already built as a legitimate postseason contender. Adding Reyes into the top of the order would only make their lineup even better.
The Milwaukee Brewers are on pace to win the National League Central and could go deep into the postseason. However, slugging first baseman Prince Fielder is on the last year of his contract, and should he go elsewhere, the Brewers will definitely try to make a big signing in the offseason. If they do not get a big name to replace Fielder at first base, look for the Brewers to upgrade their shortstop position and go after Jose Reyes.
Yuniesky Betancourt is a good overall shortstop, but he is only batting .252 this year. The Brewers may feel that they could do better and either trade or release Betancourt in order to potentially go after Reyes. Furthermore, Reyes' presence at the leadoff spot could let either second baseman Rickie Weeks or right fielder Corey Hart slide down to the middle of the order, where they would probably be more productive.
The Brewers are built mostly around their power, but if they have Reyes at the top with his speed, their offense will only get better.
Another National League Central team that could go after Jose Reyes in the offseason is the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds currently have the veteran Edgar Renteria as their shortstop, but it would be no surprise if they tried to upgrade by going after Reyes.
Like the Brewers, the Reds offense is largely built around power. If Reyes were to join center fielder Drew Stubbs at the top of the order, it would give even more RBI opportunities for their sluggers, such as Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce. With that kind of offense, plus their strong starting rotation, the Reds could definitely get back into the postseason in 2012.
Last, but not least, the Philadelphia Phillies should not be ruled out of this discussion. They are not the most likely to try and sign Jose Reyes, but if certain events occur, Reyes being on the Phillies just might happen.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is currently in the final year of his contract. He has been the Phillies' clubhouse leader for years. However, he is now 32 years old and has been rather banged up with injuries during the past few seasons. The Phillies may try to replace him with a younger and more durable shortstop and Reyes would definitely fit that description.
Another reason why the Phillies may go after Reyes is to spite the Mets and their fans, who view the Phillies as their main rival. Any news regarding the Phillies and Reyes would make many fans nervous because while losing Reyes would be bad enough, seeing him play for a rival team would be more or less heartbreaking for Mets fans.
Again, the Phillies are the least likely of these five teams to make a serious push towards signing Reyes, but if they let Rollins go elsewhere, there is a good chance that Reyes will become one of their top targets in the offseason.