With each passing day, the likelihood of Jose Reyes donning orange and blue next season grows bleaker. Like the dimensions at Citi Field, the walls seem to be closing in on Reyes’ tenure in Queens.
Look at the facts—Reyes is coming off one of the best seasons in his career, hitting .337 with 7 home runs, 39 stolen bases and 181 hits, not to mention winning the National League batting title. He is the catalyst every offense desires and he instantly can change the nature of a game. While his season was injury riddled, he spent much of the early portion of the season as an MVP candidate and raised his stock significantly heading towards the end of his contract.
On the flip side we have the cash-strapped Mets, who must calculate every move they make and have multiple holes to fill on their roster.
Once Reyes hits the free agent waters this week, the Mets will begin competing with the likes of the Giants, the Brewers and maybe even the Phillies for the star-shortstop’s services for 2012 and beyond.
The question remains, will General Manager Sandy Alderson allocate upwards of $20 million of his already thin payroll availability to one homegrown, albeit injury prone, star? The answer is not entirely clear cut.
Earlier this year, many believed that the Mets and Reyes would find a common ground for the two parties to meet at. The notion was the Mets wanted Reyes back and Reyes wanted to stay in Queens for the foreseeable future.
However, recent reports indicate that Alderson and his front office will not offer Reyes a contract in the exclusive five-day window granted to teams after the World Series. Instead, rumors suggest that Alderson will allow the shortstop to test free agency and allow other teams to dictate his market value.
Alderson is essentially asking other teams to answer a question no one seems to be able to crack: how much is Reyes actually worth? The shortest possible answer to that question is becoming: more than the Mets can afford.
On an emotional side, the Mets are in a tight corner. Reyes is a homegrown talent that has led the Mets offense for the better part of a decade. His electrifying play and bubbly attitude were staples of the Mets successful run from 2006-08 and fans will undoubtedly expect the Mets to pay handsomely for that to continue.
On the business side, Alderson’s plan makes sense. There is no doubt that the Mets would love for Reyes to continue to slide, steal and do what he does best at Citi Field. But baseball is a business and Alderson does not make poor business decisions. If the Mets engage in a bidding war over Reyes, and the process is dragged out until the late days of the offseason, the team will not have time to plug in other holes that the roster undoubtedly needs assistance in.
So in the end, expect the Mets to meet with Reyes sometime in the next few weeks with an offer that will be close to their final one. Rumors suggest the Mets are looking to have Reyes sign a 4-year-deal with options for a fifth or possibly even a sixth year depending on various incentives. Reyes is obviously looking for more stability in his contract. Whether the two sides can find a middle ground remains to be seen.
Overall, no one seems to be able to agree on the final destination for Reyes. Peter Gammons, an analyst for MLB Network and hall of fame reporter, said today on WFAN that he expects the Mets and Reyes to eventually come to terms, while other writers, such as Newsday’s David Lennon believe the Mets will be in contention until they are “priced out.”
It all comes down to money, but doesn’t it always?