"Hate to do it, but what if the Mets decide to trade Reyes? What teams would be logical partners, and what kinds of prospects could the Mets expect to get back? Tampa Bay seems like a good fit, given its farm system and terrible production at SS. Who walks away first from this deal: Reyes for Brignac and Matt Moore?"
And I hate to answer but there is a very realistic possibility it could happen so I suppose I must. And like last time there's a lot here so I'll give you a long and short answer. First the short answer:
Addressing your question about the Rays, beyond the treasure trove of Post headlines that might come from a Rays-Reyes pairing, I don't necessarily see them as a great trade partner for the Mets. Like you pointed out they certainly do have the need -- as evidenced by starting SS Reid Brignac's .219 wOBA -- and with guys like Moore, Alex Torres and Chris Archer there's certainly no shortage of near-major league ready pitching chips to deal.
However, the third major contextual factor we've got to account for is the team's organizational philosophy and if you know anything about the Rays' front office, they are not of the mindset to deal cheap, young players for a rental like Reyes. And as we saw just this winter with Carl Crawford -- as close a comparable for Reyes as you're currently going to find -- Tampa is not interested in signing players to large, multiyear deals that will take them through their age 30 season and beyond.
Now for the long version, we'll get into potentially suitable trade partners as well as the reasonably expected return:
First off, it's probably fair to assume that Sandy & Co. will be looking for a package of recently graduated major leaguers or more likely near-major league ready minor leaguers. And looking around the Mets system, not only are they very outfield heavy, especially after Mejia's injury they're quite shallow in terms of pitching. So that'd be my bet for a likely return; obviously a replacement shortstop is likely as well.
Now we'll look at eight potential suitors that have either been rumored or seem to me like a decent fit based on need, prospects, etc:
Giants: Madison Bumgarner isn't impossible but he's defnitely a long shot. Jonathan Sanchez is owed $8M next year so that's not happening. More likely is a package centered around '09 first rounder and top pitching prospect RHP Zack Wheeler who BA ranked the #55 prospect in baseball this winter. The long, hard-throwing righty hits 95 mph with his heater, though as a prep arm in Hi-A he'll need at least another year+ in the minors. Click here for a scouting video/report. Oh and Brandon Belt is definitely off limits.
Reds: Homer Bailey's name has come up however, not only is he entering arb. years, he's been on and off the DL with shoulder woes...and this isn't the first time. Zack Cosart is a SS prospect who features a good power/speed mix but a career .262 minor league average doesn't impress me, especially at age 25. I'd say this deal only gets done if they decide to part with one of their impressive catching duo of Devin Mesoracco and 2010 first rounder Yasmani Grandal to eventually supplement Thole.
Cardinals: Any deal would likely have to include future stud RHP Shelby Miller as they lack high level, impact prospect talent otherwise. Miller was the 19th overall selection in '09 as a power high school arm that lives in the mid-90's and touches 97 mph with a nasy slider. Click here for a scouting report from Kevin Goldstein. I must say it does seem unlikely that St. Louis would let this guy go. 19-year old RHP Carlos Martinez is shooting up prospect boards but it also seems unlikely any deal would revolve around someone who just reached Lo-A.
Brewers: In an effort to capitalize on 2011 do they continue to clear out an already thin system? With a lack of any stud prospects it's an unlikely match but any deal would have to include back from the dead '04 first rounder RHP Mark Rogers, fellow hard-throwing righty Cody Scarpetta and then some.
Angels: Trout is untouchable. Recent call-up RHP Tyler Chatwood has been impressive thus far and seems like the perfect chip to dangle. A tall righty that can reach the mid-90's with a power curve, he's not projected as the kind of future ace that they'd refuse to part with. They also have other impact pitching talents including former U. of Oklahoma ace and '09 first rounder RHP Garrett Richards. Stud infield prospect Jean Segura might be a bit far off but would immediately become the Mets best bet to one day replace Reyes' production.
Detroit: Similar to the Cardinals, the Tigers have a stud righty, Jacob Turner, and little else. BA's #21 overall prospect, Turner is a 6'5" righty with an electric high 90's fastball who projects to the top of any rotation. Click here for video. Unfortunately, like Miller with the Cards, there's little chance Detroit deals this kid. Unheralded lefty Andy Oliver is a solid bet to be a mid-rotation option but he won't get this deal done without a lot of other pieces.
Red Sox: Talks will center around their 21-year old 'shortstop of the future' Jose Iglesias. A wizard with the gloze, there is some question about whether the Havana native will ever hit. Their hard-throwing righty/lefty combo of Anthony Ranaudo and Drake Britton would both be enticing but likely too far from the majors, with guys like OF Josh Reddick and LHP Felix Doubront safer options. They've got plenty of suitable names, but no knockouts. And do they even want to deal?
Twins: Like the Rays I don't know if I see the Twins making this kind of deal but if they did it'd have to start with their top pitching prospect RHP Kyle Gibson. The former Mizzou standout is currently handling the Triple-A International League and projects as a strong #2.
Overall, I think we can rule out a number of these clubs. Right off the bat the Twins rarely make these type deals and already look like they might not compete this summer. The Tigers and Cards won't relinquish a couple of future aces and the Brewers just don't have the prospects left after Greinke and Marcum. The Red Sox do but I don't see them sinking another $100M into Reyes after their spending spree last winter.
I feel the Reds, Giants and Angels are your three serious contenders. Though for Cincinnati pitching looks like it's going to be more of a concern this summer and currently ranked #2 in runs, they might be looking for more arms. The Giants are the MSM 's front runner right now but everyone seems to forget that they don't make these kinds of deals. Last year's club, for example, was cobbled together with leftover parts. I do see Brian Sabean calling Sandy, but more about Carlos Beltran who will come a lot cheaper.
That leaves us with the Angels who just cut bait on their longtime 'shortstop of the future' Brandon Wood and are currently starting the punchless trio of Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo on their left side. Additionally, this winter they were left at the alter by another top of the order superstar speedster so the intent -- and more importantly the money -- is clearly there. I really hope it doesn't come to this but I'm guessing we see a deal where --assuming Sandy doesn't wait until the deadline -- Reyes goes to Anaheim in exchange for Tyler Chatwood and Jean Segura. Maybe a guy like Izturis is included to plug the gap for 2011.