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Preparing For Life Without Jose Reyes

Even before the Jose-Reyes-to-the-Marlins rumormongering began, I had already started preparing myself for life without Jose Reyes. So far, the Marlins' courtship of Reyes is still in the heavy petting phase, but even without such strong interest from another team there were reasons to be pessimistic that Reyes would be back with the Mets next season. Four or five months ago, he seemed headed for a record-breaking contract; seven or eight years at better than $20 million per season didn't seem out of the question. Now it doesn't look like he'll get either that much money or that many years, and for the first time it seems more likely than not that Reyes will sign elsewhere.

In the early part of 2011, Reyes was the best player in the National League and seemed like he'd be able to set whatever price he wanted for his next contract. Then he cooled off a bit and folks realized that he wasn't really drawing any walks. Then he got hurt and we all remembered why long-term contracts are usually bad ideas. Then he stopped running for a while and we started imagining what Jose Reyes sans speed might look like, and it wasn't a pretty sight.

It was around that time that I made a mental shift from "I love Jose Reyes and I want him to be on the Mets forever" to "Jose Reyes with wonky legs isn't worth $20 million more than Ruben Tejada." I've held the latter opinion, more or less, for the last three or four months now. I'll confess that some of it is an exercise in mental gymnastics as I temper my expectations for getting Reyes back. The Mets aren't profitable right now and 2012 is looking more and more like a transition year at best, so throttling my enthusiasm for one of my favorite Mets ever is a convenient coping mechanism should the post-Reyes years begin sooner than I had been planning for.

But some of it is also a renewed wariness of long-term contracts, especially with regard to a player who relies so heavily on his oft-injured legs. As a general rule, deals longer than three years tend not to work out for teams. Plenty of them do, of course, so rather than simply always saying no to long-term signings, I think you have to set some fairly rigorous guidelines for such deals and acknowledge the red flags when they're flapping right in your face.

Guaranteeing six years to Jose Reyes is crazy. Even four years at anything like $18 million seems ludicrous to me right now. The Marlins are said to have placed a six-year, $90-million offer on the table as a jumping-off point, and while they sit around waiting for a counteroffer, I can't really imagine the Mets exceeding that deal in either years or dollars. If Reyes signs with the Mets it'll be because he'd rather play for the organization and the fans that got him here even if it means accepting the second-best (or third-best, or...) deal on offer.

All of this is to say that I've skipped a whole bunch of steps in the Kübler-Reyes grief model, jumping way past Anger all the way to Acceptance. It's going to be okay; I can't fight it, so I might as well prepare for it. It is becoming increasingly likely that Jose Reyes has played his last game with the Mets. I'm not happy about it, but I'll deal with it. Ruben Tejada is pretty good, too, right? Guys?