Sandy Alderson is letting the market come to Jose Reyes. He's not creating it. He almost seems indifferent, possibly hopeful, the Mets don't end up with Reyes next year. But, his strategy seems sound in light of what the market could be for Reyes.
Since Fred Wilpon opened his mouth in May, the term "Carl Crawford Money" and Jose Reyes have been tied together. And while the comparison between the two players are apt, the comparison between the market for them is not. Reyes is not going to get a seven-year contract, and he's not going to get $142 million. That's why Alderson is letting the market come to Reyes. And if the "Carl Crawford Money" Market does come to Reyes? The Mets are going to be as far away from that fracas as possible.
It's hard to pinpoint one team that's in a good position to offer Reyes a contract over $100 million, which is something the Mets should be able to afford. The most sensible suitors for Reyes appear to be the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels. Then there's some good fits, both on the field and financially, such as the Minnesota Twins, the Milwaukee Brewers (if they lose Prince Fielder) and the Philadelphia Phillies (if they lose Jimmy Rollins).
The San Francisco Giants seem like a great fit for Reyes, but at what cost? While Aaron Rowand will be off the books after 2012 and Barry Zito and Aubrey Huff in 2013 (although those two will cost $9 million in option buyouts to wash their hands of), the Giants will watch each of their Big Three pitchers hit the free-agent market each year after this season in the order of Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and finally Tim Lincecum.
They need payroll flexibility and they need more than Reyes. While Reyes would be a great fit with the Giants, they are more in need of another middle of the lineup bat to pair with Buster Posey. If the Giants are going to get into the realm of nine-figure contacts, why not go after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols?
The Los Angeles Dodgers have concerns similar to the Giants. They have to find a way to hold onto Matt Kemp, figure out if they want to sign Andre Ethier and try to lock up Clayton Kershaw for the long term—or at least budget for what will be significant raises in arbitration over the next few years.
The Los Angeles Angels already have a pretty solid shortstop in Erick Aybar, although Reyes would be a certain upgrade, but not a necessary one. 2011 saw owner Arte Moreno seeking more frugality from the front office, commanding that development come from within the organization. With this in mind, I see the Angels in on Reyes, but in the same manner the Mets are in on Reyes. There will be limits of reason on how much to spend, particularly considering the addition of Reyes is far from a need and more of a luxury.
The Twins are an interesting team to keep an eye on. They are losing more than $30 million dollars in payroll with the exit of Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, and Jason Kubel. And after the 2013 season the contract of Justin Morneau expires, which should have been a payroll fright for the Twins, but seems to be a relief due to the Morneau's struggles since suffering the concussion in 2010. I think it's a great fit, but it's difficult to imagine the Twins beat the market on Reyes.
There's always the surprise suitor, but the market for Jose Reyes is not going to be the market for Carl Crawford. With the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox seemingly out of this race, the only way Reyes gets a near a $140 million contract is if a team wants to shut down the market and guarantee adding Reyes. That team doesn't seem to be out there.
If this is the case, I don't think it's a matter of whether the Mets will be able to sign Jose Reyes as much as whether Sandy Alderson really want to go after Reyes. It'll be interesting to see if Alderson is truly waiting to gauge the market that comes to Reyes, or whether he doesn't want part of the market at all. I don't think he is going to negotiate on Reyes. It's likely he already has the framework of the offer in mind, and offer it when the time is right.