Risky move: Marlins give Reyes an unwarranted King's ransom

Nick PoustCorrespondent IIDecember 5, 2011

The Mets fans thanked him, and now Jose Reyes is thanking the Miami Marlins for their hefty investment. (Reuters/Ray Stubblebine)

The Florida Marlins had been known for their inability to keep star players. Now the Miami Marlins are signing stars.

They weren’t kidding when they essentially said they would show the offseason’s top free-agents the money. According to various reports, the team with a new name, new uniforms, and a new ballpark signed shortstop and former New York Met Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106 million deal. And they aren’t done.

This was a perplexing move for many reasons. First, though Reyes won the National League batting title this past season, the 28-year-old still missed 36 games with nagging and recurring leg injuries. Injuries are nothing new to the exciting, game-changing shortstop. He only played in 169 of 324 games from 2009 to 2010. He hit well when he did play in those two seasons, but he still was far from the electric player who dominated from 2005 to 2008. Signing him to a three-year deal is one thing; the addition of three more could prove to be disastrous.

If healthy, his talent is worth the money and years he was given by the Marlins, at least by baseball terms and standards. Yet, there is little reason to believe his legs can hold up. And he seems to have acquired the attitude so many stars have. To keep from potentially losing his batting title, he sat out the season’s final game. He’s no Ted Williams, who played with a .400 batting average in 1941 and managed to increase it. Reyes’s desire to keep the award in the most selfish way imaginable angered fans he had entranced for so many years.

Though they have seen him at his best, New York was wise not to pursue him as aggressively as the Marlins did. The Mets would only go as far as five years and $75-80 million, which should conceivably be enough to sign someone with Reyes’s injury-riddled past. Instead, he gets one more year and about $30 million more.

Miami may regret this move, but if he does surprisingly stay healthy and pan out the Mets won’t like Reyes being in the same division nor on a team that already signed closer Heath Bell and is in running to sign Albert Pujols, the best hitter in baseball.

Bell’s signing was risky, too, as he will be a Marlin for his age 35, 36, and 37 seasons, but Reyes’s was far more so. And it’s not only his injuries and the length of the contract that makes it potentially backfiring. The Marlins already have Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. He is a star in his own right, and moving him to a foreign position may not bode well for team defense and clubhouse chemistry.

Has giving nine-figure deals ever panned out in the long-run? Texas got out of Alex Rodriguez’s mega-deal in 2004, knowing the length was a mistake. The New York Yankees are regretting the deal they gave Rodriguez, and should be regretting the lengthy paydays to Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. Then there are the Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, Barry Zito, Vernon Wells, and Johan Santana ill-advised investments that have hampered so many teams, and the current Jayson Werth, Ryan Howard, and Carl Crawford contracts that could be problematic.

Howard’s contract with the Philadelphia Phillies looks especially worrisome because of a torn Achilles. Santana’s looks similarly bad because of the Tommy John Surgery that erased his 2011 season. So when the Mets looked at Reyes’ situation, they did so intelligently, with caution. Scrambling to fill his hole at shortstop is better than being hamstrung financially with a guy who, ironically, has a tendency to tear his hamstrings.

Reyes may stay healthy and rack up the steals, triples, and runs for the Marlins, but as of now the contract that sent him and his talents to South Beach is questionable. He is an unknown, but one thing is known: Miami is serious and ready to open their wallet. Whether their New Money, get-rich-quick lifestyle ultimately proves beneficial remains to be seen.