The year 2016, host to an unending string of weird and improbable events, took another turn down Who’d-A-Thunk-It Boulevard when the Mets signed erstwhile homegrown fan-favorite Jose Reyes to a prorated league-minimum deal in June. Mets fans will recall that Reyes departed to free agency after the 2011 season and signed a nine-figure contract with the Marlins, seemingly never to return.
Unfortunately for Reyes and others, neither his career nor his life have gone quite as planned since then; if they had, then Reyes and the Mets almost certainly would not have reunited this year. As it is, a convergence of missteps and misfortunes brought the two together, and the result—on the baseball diamond, anyway—was better than expected.
In a happier world, this article would trace the narrative of Reyes’s joyful return to the Mets in June, whereby he escaped his baseball purgatory and helped push the franchise that once drafted and reared him back to the playoffs, much to the delight of adoring Mets fans everywhere. Such a story, nice to hear though it might be, would ignore the full truth of the matter, however, and neither Reyes nor Mets fans have the luxury of indulging such a delusion.
The truth is that Jose Reyes physically assaulted his wife last year and subsequently served an uncontested 51-game suspension from Major League Baseball for the offense. At the time, Reyes was fresh off an awful 2015 season in which he was traded from the playoff-bound Blue Jays to the last-place Rockies. Reyes’ 82 OPS+ for the season was bad, but his 67 OPS+ in 47 games with the Rockies after the trade truly shows the extent to which 2015 went completely off the rails for him on the field. Of course, his baseball woes are utterly beside the point in view of the domestic abuse incident.
Reyes wound up not playing a single game for the Rockies in 2016, who, for their part, decided it was more palatable to eat the remaining $40 million they owed him than to give him another chance under their watch. By this time (June), the Mets’ injury parade had already taken a toll on their roster, and the team was in dire need of a bat and a third baseman. Reyes’ negligible price tag, strong throwing arm, track record of success, and, probably, history with the team made him seem to many like a good low-risk pickup.
After the reunion was made official, Reyes apologized again, Mets brass gave their spiel about his sincerity, and baseball resumed. Almost immediately, Reyes provided everything supporters of the reunion had hoped he would. Reyes’ 104 OPS+ in 279 plate appearances might not seem like anything particularly great, but for the injury-decimated 2016 Mets, any league-average bat—let alone a slightly above-average one—was a plus. Third base proved a good fit for Reyes, too, where the effects of his diminished range were mitigated and, inversely, those of his customarily strong and accurate throwing arm played up.
By the end of the season, it seemed obvious the Mets would pick up the option they held on Jose Reyes for the 2017 season, and they did. Reyes will provide the Mets with much needed versatility in the infield next year, what with the questionable state of David Wright’s health and the as-yet unanswered question of who will play second base. It is a natural, sensible fit for both parties, and those of us on the outside are entitled to think what we will about it.