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Jose Reyes set to begin 2017 season as regular third baseman

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With David Wright on the disabled list to start the year, Reyes will play a lot of third base.

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When Jose Reyes signed a contract with the Miami Marlins following the 2011 season, it didn’t seem like he would ever be back. There wasn’t necessarily bad blood between the player and the Mets, though the matter of whether or not he was officially offered a contract didn’t seem to sit well. But if he were to return, it felt like it would probably be for the last year or two of his career, at least after his six-year contract came to an end.

Five offseasons later, Reyes was arrested on a domestic violence charge in Hawaii. Charges were eventually dropped, but Major League Baseball conducted its own investigation and, under its domestic violence policy, suspended him for the first two months of the 2016 season. When that suspension was up, the Colorado Rockies released him.

In June, the Mets signed him. Once a very popular—perhaps the most popular—player on the Mets, Reyes returned sooner than everyone had hoped, but under circumstances that nobody would have wanted. But he was back, and he remains on the team again this year at a league minimum while the Rockies continue to pay the millions of dollars owed from his original contract with the Marlins.

In his 279 plate appearances with the Mets last year, Reyes hit .267/.326/.443 with eight home runs and a 105 wRC+. Those numbers are all roughly in line with his career norms, and they were an encouraging bounce-back from a 2015 season that was his worst at the plate in his major league career. His defense at third base seemed passable, too.

With David Wright trying to work back from a shoulder impingement that stunted his throwing program in spring training, Reyes figures to play third most days until Wright returns. Even then, Wright wouldn’t be expected to play on an everyday basis, which would leave Reyes plenty of opportunities at the position.

Generally speaking, the projections all have him landing somewhere between his 80 wRC+ from 2015 and the 108 mark from last year. That seems pretty reasonable, and the Mets would probably not object to getting a roughly-league-average year at the plate from Reyes with acceptable defense. And Terry Collins will almost certainly enjoy batting him in the leadoff spot.

Going into his age-34 season, a return to his best offensive years doesn’t seem likely but wouldn’t be entirely impossible. Reyes won’t match his 142 wRC+ from 2011, the year he hit .337 and led the National League in average, but that level of production wasn’t the norm. Given the rest of the Mets’ roster, 2016-like production would be fine for Reyes, even if it’s not spectacular.