2011 Postmortem: Shortstop

2011 Postmortem: A position-by-position look back at the season with some preliminary thoughts on 2012.

Shortstoppostmortem_medium

Jose Reyes had about as good a year as a Mets fan could have hoped, both from a production standpoint and a free agency standpoint. He reminded everyone what he is capable of on the ballfield; if not for a recurring mid-summer hamstring injury, he could have made a run for the National League MVP Award. However, he played just 126 games in a contract year -- and 295 over the last 3 seasons -- which will likely lower his value on the open market. He will head to free agency as an elite talent with durability question marks. That smidgen of uncertainty gives the Mets a non-zero chance of retaining Reyes. Had he played a full, healthy season as a .386 wOBA shortstop, his chances of receiving Carl Crawford money (and beyond?) would be far greater. And the Mets' chances of keeping him would be zilch.

Reyes's season hit a peak on July 2nd. His OPS reached a high of .927 and he had 30 stolen bases at an 83% success rate by that point. That was also the day he first injured his left hamstring, which affected his play throughout the second half. He hit just 1 triple in his final 46 games after notching 15(!) through his first 80 games. His stolen base attempts plummeted and his aggressiveness on the basepaths diminished. But even with the slow second half he became the first Met ever to win the batting title and finished behind only Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun in the NL in fWAR/700 plate appearances. It was a joy to watch.

Ruben Tejada filled in nicely when Reyes was injured. Combine a pretty .360 OBP with strong defense at tough positions and you have a sneaky valuable season. His power was Luis Castillo-esque but keep in mind Tejada was just 21 years-old this season. I'm still skeptical about counting on him as the everyday shortstop -- a ~.660 OPS seems like a realistic 2012 projection -- but he really showed something in 2011. Maybe he can be a poor man's Elvis Andrus, a comparison I swear I came up with before reading this tweet.

Chin-lung Hu hit a memorable game-tying sacrifice fly in the ninth inning against the Nationals on April 27th. That's about the only positive thing that can be said about Hu.

Back to Reyes. The often-competing forces of head and heart are in play as I formulate an opinion on the Reyes free agency situation. Usually the head takes the lead but this is Jose Reyes. A brief breakdown:

Head

This is a top-20 position player in his prime. The durability issues are very real but even at 130 games a season he would still be worth something like $19 million annually. It may be too much to commit to one player though, considering the Mets' unfortunate financial limitations. A sensible offer, that almost certainly wouldn't secure Reyes's services, would be 5 years, $95 million with an option year. Much more than that could be a mistake.

Heart

It'll be hard to passionately follow this team next season if he's not here. Empty the already depleted vault. Max out the credit cards. Take out a fourth mortgage. Spend beyond your means.

 

My Reyes approach falls somewhere between the head and heart extremes. He means more to this organization that just WAR. This is an instance where considerations beyond production need to be heavily weighed. Unfortunately, the more I think about it the less I think he will return. So I shall choose not to think about it starting at the conclusion of this post.

Desired 2012 starting shortstop: JOSE REYES

Projected 2012 starting shortstop: ::with tears in my eyes:: Ruben Tejada

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