Reeling in the Years

The latest wrinkle in the Jose Reyes Sweepstakes is the first concrete offer. Or the closest thing to one so far, anyway. Reports on Tuesday indicated that the Marlins offered Reyes a six-year, $90 million deal. The Marlins, for once, are keeping quiet and will neither confirm nor deny said reports. However, the specificity of this figure indicates it wasn't pulled out of thin air or someone's posterior. And so the natural response to this was to immediately say Reyes was a goner, that the Mets would be unlikely to match Miami's offer.

Money-wise, I could see the Mets giving Reyes more than $90 million, but I can't imagine them handing out a six-year deal. While I don't buy the notion that Reyes is not a "Sandy Alderson type player," a six-year contract for any player is definitely not a Sandy Alderson type contract. And even if this report isn't true (the Miami Herald is now reporting the Reyes offer was "slightly inflated"), it sets a ballpark for the Reyes market. If Reyes absolutely wants a six-year deal, then yes, I would say it's more likely than not that he's gone.

The caveat I would add is this: I can't wrap my head around the idea of the Marlins offering six guaranteed years for Reyes. I don't doubt that they want to make a big splash in free agency, because they've been telling us this since the regular season ended. They want to spend big to open their new stadium in style, and I expect they will. I just have a hard time believing they will hand a contract of that guaranteed length to anyone, let alone Reyes.

Why not? Because it gives them no out if things don't go according to plan. The Marlins are banking on a new stadium and big time players to finally create a fanbase that will stick around for years to come. It could very well work. It could also not work. And if it doesn't, they're on the hook for a lot of money for a long time. Especially if Reyes slows down or gets hurt midway through the contract. The Marlins spending money isn't completely antithetical to their way of doing business (see: 1997), but being on the hook for such a length of time is. That's how they gained the rep as MLB's version of Logan's Run.

If the Marlins are truly offering a "six-year contract," I would guess it would actually be some combination of heavily frontloaded, lacking a no-trade clause, and/or for no more than four actual years with options for years five and six. If that's the case, Reyes can do better, and I'm sure he knows that. Bare minimum, Reyes can get a guaranteed five-year deal from someone. A six-year deal is not completely out of the question, either, though I have to think other teams might be just as wary of such a thing as the Mets.

I also find it odd that this is where the Marlins started, money-wise. They're itching to spend money, and yet they offer Reyes a deal that averages to $15 million a year? This is significantly less than he is expected to get or rumored to want; it's already been rumored that Reyes is looking for a $100 million deal, bare minimum.

Coincidentally, $15 million is how much Hanley Ramirez is making this upcoming season. I don't want to put too much stock into stories of HanRam being not so jazzed at the thought of vacating shortstop for Reyes, because there's been enough conflicting info on that subject to muddy the waters, and in any case, who knows what another person is truly feeling anyway? (Deep.) I do know that though it's been whispered that he'd be okay with it, what he and team officials have actually said publicly on the subject thus far is ambivalent, at best. Add the fact that Ramirez is Marlins owner Jeff Loria's favorite, and you could theorize that the Marlins are worried about offending their current shortstop. Hence, a deal that puts Reyes on more or less equal footing with him.

So the big question is, Does Reyes care more about years than money, or vice versa? Impossible to say at this early stage. However, info like this is leaked for a reason; namely, because someone stands to benefit from it. Who benefits the most from these figures being in everyone's heads? You'd have to conclude it's the Reyes camp. it certainly doesn't benefit the Marlins, as it gives other teams a tangible figure to contemplate and beat, if they wish. It doesn't help the Mets for the same reason (not that they would have had this info to leak anyway), but it does give them an idea of what they have to beat to land him.

it does help Reyes reach whatever contract goal he has in mind. And my gut feeling is it was leaked more to give people of what he wants in years than money. Because the dollar figure is underwhelming; the contract length, anything but.

I say all of this full aware that 1) I may be totally wrong, and 2) it's still very early in this process. A week from now, all of this talk could be a distant memory, as Reyes talks to more teams, or receives a completely different, or is even just rumored to do any of the above. For the moment, however, it's the years mentioned that I find most intriguing--and terrifying, frankly, as a Met fan who wants Reyes to return.

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