With GM Sandy Alderson talking about a "slow process" and 'waiting for the market,' it's a virtual lock that Jose Reyes will become a free agent on Thursday. It's a nightmare situation for Mets fans, and it won't be solved anytime soon.
Rumors have now linked the Angels, Nationals, Marlins, Braves, Reds, Giants, Tigers, Brewers and Phillies to the Mets shortstop. That's a lot of interested people, and yet Reyes brings with him two hamstrings made of questions marks. What will the market decide he is worth?
Our talented writers have their thoughts after the jump.
Will the Mets sign Reyes?
Eric Simon: If Jose Reyes is adamant about getting the biggest contract possible — and it's not clear that's the case — he's probably not going to get it from the Mets. Sandy Alderson understands that the Mets are a business and that Reyes is their most marketable commodity; if he's not back in 2012 then you can be sure that droves of fans will follow suit. But he also knows that giving a seven-year contract to any ballplayer, let alone one with Reyes's checkered injury history and lopsided skill set, is a fool's errand.
I like to think that Reyes's history with this franchise means something; it does to me, certainly. He has been in the Mets organization since he was a kid and he has been one of the most valuable, exciting players the franchise has ever known. He seems to enjoy playing in New York and the city and its fans reciprocate in kind. Also, the thought of Reyes in another team's laundry is nauseating.
Nevertheless, I don't expect Alderson to extend an offer to Reyes for more than six guaranteed years, and he'd doubtless prefer a shorter deal than that — say, five years with a couple of generous team options. He (Alderson) has already said that he'll let other teams set the market for Reyes. If some other team makes it rain Carl Crawford money, Reyes might find it difficult to accept a considerable hometown discount to remain with the Mets.
In my cold, black heart I believe that Reyes wants to be back with the Mets and the two sides will settle on terms for a mutually beneficial but decidedly unspectacular contract, but I'd hardly be surprised if a few dollars more land Reyes in an Angels or Nationals or Cubs uniform in 2012 (plus the half-dozen years hence).
Matthew Callan: There seems to be a general sense of gloom around those who cover the Mets, and not much confidence the team will resign Jose Reyes. I don't want to completely dismiss this, as it comes from many different sources and I don't think the writers in question are doing it just to be jerks. However, to believe that Reyes will sign elsewhere, you also have to believe in either a robust, competitive market or a rogue team that will break the bank for him. I don't see either materializing.
There's no shortage of alternate destinations, but a dearth of ones I can see happening. I'll believe the Marlins are willing to spend money when I see it, and if I do see it, I bet it will be on either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. I also doubt that Jeffrey Loria's favorite song, Hanley Ramirez, will be asked to move from shortstop, or that Reyes would be cool going somewhere that asked him to switch positions. The Giants are always a threat to go bonkers with a contract (hi, Barry Zito), but their payroll already seems stretched paper thin, and that's before taking care of a few very important arbitration cases. It's hard to say what the new Angels GM, Jerry DiPoto, will do, but they too seem to have some budget concerns, not to mention they also have Erick Aybar at short.
The nightmare scenario of the Phillies signing him seems more of a fever dream, as they have a homegrown SS of their own to take care of. (Not that it's inconceivable Jimmy Rollins gets his walking papers, just unlikely.) I think Washington will spend its money more judiciously after their Jayson Werth contract became a go-to punchline. The Braves could use Reyes (who couldn't?), but like the Giants, they're going to get hit hard in arbitration this winter. The Tigers would have to ask Jhonny Peralta to move over to third, which is not out of the question, but I feel like teams in general don't like to do this sort of thing with the frequency they once did. It seems almost quaint, like player-managers and scheduled doubleheaders.
There are dangers in signing Reyes--or any player--to a long, expensive contract. Sandy Alderson is well aware of this. So is every other GM. For every other team, Reyes is a nice-to-have, which means the payoff of that risk is so much lower, the downside much bigger. For the Mets, Reyes is a must-have. Luckily for them, I think the market breaks in their favor.
If you put a gun to my head--well, first of all, I'd ask why you're doing that over such an ultimately inconsequential question. But if forced to pick yes or no on the issue of will the Mets resign Reyes, I'd say yes. And then I'd ask you to put the gun down, you maniac.
Eno Sarris: This is a little different than the last question, even if you could answer it similarly. Yes the Mets will sign Reyes, if the price is right and Reyes agrees to it. But that's boring.
Instead, it might be more interesting to take a look at the teams that will most likely compete with the Mets for the services of the Professor. Take teams with an opening at shortstop and subtract out those that won't spend the money, and you have the: Braves, Giants, Reds, Tigers, Brewers, and maybe the Phillies.
In some ways, the Mets are lucky. If the Phillies sign Rollins relatively early, there won't be a single team among the top seven payrolls in baseball that will be after Reyes. So at least the pain of having the Red Sox or Yankees outbid the Mets probably (probably!) won't be in the cards for Reyes fans this offseason.
That doesn't mean that the Braves, Giants or Reds won't do the deed. After arbitration awards to Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum (among others), the Giants might only have ten million dollars left, and no Carlos Beltran. They may need to spread the money they have around. Even after trading Derek Lowe, the Braves might only have ten million left after their arbitration awards go out to Tommy Hanson, Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, and Jair Jurrjens. Are they ready to stretch their budget past $80-ish million?
The Reds are a problem. They have an offensive hole at shortstop right now (Paul Janish), only really Edinson Volquez awaiting a nice arbitration award, and as much as $25 million burning a hole in their pocket. Will they spend it on pitching or offense? They may have to choose, and their hitting was ahead of their pitching last year. But they are worrisome.
The Tigers, Brewers and Phillies seem like long shots. The Tigers have a budget and a current shortstop they'd have to push to third. The Brewers may or may not be in for a full overhaul and the beginning of a rebuild. The Phillies have a shortstop that they may feel pressure to re-sign.
The stage is set for Reyes to return to the Mets. His injury history will depress the market in terms of years, and he has the most value to the Mets in terms of dollars. Who knows if it will be four years with an option for more money per year, of five guaranteed for less money, but it could really happen. The real big boys aren't at this table.