By now, most of the baseball world is familiar with the current situation involving Jose Reyes. Not much recapping needs to be done about the Mets’ outright refusal to release the struggling infielder or even merely play better options over him. It’s been one of the biggest talking points of the Mets’ season and one of the biggest stains on what has been a disaster 2018 season in Flushing.
To put it bluntly, Reyes has offered precisely nothing of value to the Mets all season long. He’s been one of the worst hitters in the league, currently owning a 34 wRC+, and he’s been a disaster on defense at any position he’s played. Despite abysmal production, a cheap contract with no team commitment beyond the 2018 season, and a litany of better options, Reyes not only remains on the team, but he’s actually seen his playing time increase recently.
Yes, even though Reyes has shown zero improvement since the start of April, he’s only seen the field more in recent weeks. As our own Linda Surovich pointed out, Reyes has seen an uptick in playing time since June 14, racking up nearly 45% of his plate appearances this year within the last month. None of this has been based on merit, of course, as he has just a 59 wRC+ in that time.
Again, none of this is exactly breaking new ground. We all know the situation, and fans have been complaining about it for months. But yesterday, this whole affair reached a new low point, as Mickey Callaway benched Amed Rosario for Reyes against Max Scherzer because Rosario was “too hot” and they didn’t want to ruin his confidence against a good pitcher. This is, of course, utterly asinine, and entirely counter-intuitive to how to manage a young player making strides.
It’s hard to believe Callaway actually felt that way about Rosario. In truth, it really just seemed to be yet another example of the team’s mystifying and seemingly interminable effort to justify giving Reyes playing time. Last month, Sandy Alderson, in his final press conference as general manager, brought up Reyes—completely unprompted—just to mention his recent success over a relative handful of at bats that week, claiming that the 35-year-old “still had value” to the team, despite a .174/.286/.244 line and -0.7 fWAR at the time.
Then last week, Mickey Callaway reasoned that Reyes was starting over Rosario against the Blue Jays because they liked Reyes better against Marcus Stroman’s style of pitching. Callaway never elaborated on what that style of pitching was or why Reyes was better suited for it. Reyes then went 0-for-4 in that game. A few days later, Callaway said that Jeff McNeil wasn’t getting called up to play third base in Todd Frazier’s absence because McNeil isn’t a third baseman, which is, of course, patently false. McNeil has played 148 career games at third base in the minors, and can almost certainly play it at better than Reyes can.
And, finally, just a few days ago, John Harper tried to approach J.P. Ricciardi about why Reyes was still on the team. Ricciardi refused to answer the question, leaving Harper to believe that it was ultimately ownership behind the decision to keep Reyes around, which has been plainly obvious for quite some time.
So let’s just call a spade a spade here, then. This entire situation has been a completely transparent display of shameless favoritism and amateurish roster mismanagement that is almost certainly stemming from none other than Fred and Jeff Wilpon themselves. These quotes from Callaway read like nothing more than quotes from a man being hung out to dry to the media by his bosses, and trying anything to explain their ways at this point. The Mets’ weak attempts to convince everyone that Reyes is deserving of playing time are insulting to the intelligence of fans, the media, and ultimately the other members of the team who are seeing their chances at winning games impacted because of ownership’s overt affection for a certain player.
What’s more, because of their devotion to Reyes, the team has had to intentionally limit their chances to evaluate several other younger assets, potentially harming the future of the franchise. This whole situation would be much easier to take if Reyes’ reps weren’t coming at the expense of reps for younger, more important players who might actually have futures with the team. But they are, and these are players who need to be evaluated at the big league level sooner rather than later, and Reyes’s presence is either directly or indirectly preventing that from happening in some cases. And evaluating young assets is exactly what these kinds of lost seasons are for.
For example, Reyes has started 12 games at shortstop this year and has appeared in 18 games in total at the position. And while Rosario has indeed struggled this year, he needs as many reps as possible in order for the Mets to have the best idea of what they have in him. If he needs a day off, it would benefit the team far more to play someone like Luis Guillorme at shortstop on those days. Guillorme, an elite defensive shortstop, might actually have a future in the organization as a utility player, and it would be nice to know just how well he can handle major league pitching.
Speaking of Guillorme, on June 25, the team started him at third base, a position he’s hardly played in his career, in favor of Reyes at shortstop. Guillorme made two errors in that game and lost his roster spot the next day. He still has not played shortstop at the big league level, which you’d probably like to see happen before 2019.
It would also be nice to see Dominic Smith get more playing time. And with the injury to Frazier, it could be a great time to move Wilmer Flores to third and give Smith the everyday job at first base just to get a few more looks at the former top prospect. But instead, Reyes has started every game at third since Frazier’s injury, while Flores has gotten most of the reps at first base, relegating Smith to the bench. Smith has 63 plate appearances since June 14, just one more than Reyes does in that time.
This is all beyond explanation. The Wilpons are hamstringing their own front office, manager, and players by continuing this ridiculous Reyes saga. And it’s simply dumbfounding, because none of this is benefitting anybody. They are only embarrassing themselves at this point, and this is just not a prudent way to run an organization. This entire affair has made it incredibly easy to see where the priorities of this ownership lie, and it’s not with winning games.