When Should the Mets Trade Jose Reyes?

NOTE: this post was written by Matt Himelfarb

Sandy Alderson caused quite the media frenzy last week, following his statement that “stolen bases are a footnote,” when it comes to winning games. In the wake of the Wilpons’ financial debacle, most people construed this quote to mean that Jose Reyes’ days in Flushing  are numbered.

I’m torn on basically every single question surrounding Jose Reyes: Whether or not to retain him, how much do you pay him, when to trade him, etc. For one, there are a lot of questions to consider- how good a player is he, is he healthy, the demand for him should he hit the open market, is dishing out a Carl Crawford-esque contract a good decision, etc.- and either signing him to an extension or trading him right now requires making a whole lot of assumptions regarding those kind of questions. Plus, as a Mets fan, it pains to me to imagine Reyes donning anything other than the orange and blue.

Let’s discuss Reyes’ value first. Whenever anyone brings up Reyes’ impending free agency, they immediately use Crawford’s 7 year, $142 million dollar deal with Boston this off-season as a template. This strikes as me as somewhat intellectually lazy. Crawford has been worth an average of about 6.3 wins the last two seasons. His wOBA has consistently hovered in the .365 range, and his average UZR/150 over the last three years is over 20 runs.

I think a reasonable, slightly optimistic projection for a healthy Reyes next season would be about 4 wins. That means about a .340 wOBA (Bill James has him at .345, Marcel .341), and I’m going to assume he is a neutral defender (0 UZR/150), as his range has declined over the last three years, according to both observers and UZR. Is his ceiling, particularly offensively, higher than that? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t count on it. In dollar value, assuming one win is worth something like $4.5 million- that amounts to about $18 million a year or so (Crawford’s averages $21 million per year). It’s hard to envision Reyes getting that much money, though; by that standard, Crawford has been worth an average of over $28 million.

That being said, I can see Reyes demanding a contract very similar to Crawford’s. There is a dearth of available shortstops next season, with numerous potential big market suitors- Red Sox, Giants, Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, and, perhaps, the Yankees. If he ends up being just a four-win player next season, I’d be wary of giving him too much money. If he is the same player as he was from 2006-2008- .365+wOBA, solid range- I’d be more willing, but then again, that will cost even more money.

The obvious answer, which I’m inclined to agree with, is that in light of all these uncertainties, the Mets should simply take the wait-and-see approach.

But than again, say Alderson is convinced that the Mets will have to curtail payroll in the foreseeable future. The Mets ability to re-sign Reyes is immensely complicated, to say the least, by the Wilpons’ financial uncertainty, but let’s just say Alderson is serious about emphasizing payroll flexibility. Combined with lingering questions about Reyes’ health, and his productivity, it makes sense, in certain respects, to trade him.

And if they’re going to trade him, they might as well trade him before Opening Day. True, they could wait until the deadline, hoping Reyes proves himself healthy and reestablishes his value. For one, though, I think the Mets would get less in return from a team simply looking to rent Reyes for two-three months, than if they traded him if he proves himself healthy during Spring Training.  The Mets aren’t competing in 2011, so if they don’t plan on retaining Reyes, they should maximize their return.

Most importantly, though, the Mets risk having their hands tied if they wait until the deadline. We’ve seen this scenario the last two years; the Mets are on the fringes of contention- say 5-8 games out of the division and the wild card, where they are neither buyer nor sellers at the deadline, so they are stuck holding onto Reyes, even though nothing short of a miracle will get to them to the post-season.

True, the compensation picks for letting Reyes walk is nothing to scoff at, but again, if the Mets aren’t likely to contend and don’t think they can retain Reyes, they should not sell themselves short on a potential return. Cincinatti, for one, currently has a surplus of young pitching at the moment- one of Travis Wood, Homer Bailey, or Mike Leake is going to be the odd man out come Opening Day. The Reds have already locked up Jay Bruce on a 6-year contract and will likely look into extending Joey Votto, which probably precludes them from signing Reyes to a long-term deal. Still, it could be awfully tempting for the Reds to deal from a position of strength and have Reyes at the top of their lineup next year. Plus, you cannot underestimate the stupidity of Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker, evident by the Bronson Arroyo contract and Aroldis Chapman getting the Jenrry Mejia treatment.

Trading Reyes right now could represent a golden opportunity for the Mets to acquire a potential ace such as Bailey or Wood, or even top-flight catching prospect Devin Merosco. That might just be the best scenario Mets fans can hope for at this point.

Matt is a high school student in New Jersey and avid Mets fan. He occasionally updates his blog at: matthimelfarb.wordpress.com
  1. Paul February 7, 2011 at 9:10 am
    I think that the Mets need to sign Reyes to convince fans that they’re not turning into the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    However, if they really don’t have the financial ability to offer Reyes a market value contract, they should trade him as soon as possible to maximize the return.

    A young pitcher who could slot in behind Mike Pelfrey to start the season would make losing Reyes more palatable than the equivalent of Chris Carter & Eddie Lora at the trade deadline or the draft picks at the end of the season.

  2. NormE February 7, 2011 at 9:17 am
    There are at least two problems that you have not addressed.
    If you trade Reyes who plays SS? If your answer is Hu or Tejada, someone similar, what message does it send to the
    potential paying customers?
  3. Mark February 7, 2011 at 9:43 am
    I don’t see where using uzr from years when Jose Reyes has been injured is all that helpful. Comments like Alderson’s are why I don’t like American League baseball. I for one like stolen bases, triples, and the strategy that comes with National League baseball. The reality is that Reyes is a top three shortstop. At worst a top 5. It would be much easier to replace someone like David Wright as opposed to Jose Reyes. I agree that it appeared that Reyes had lost a step last year but as fans we are not always privy to if there was an explanation behind that. I think the key to whether Reyes comes back or leaves as a free agent or is traded is if he will sign a three year deal. This would give the Mets a hedge against his propensity toward injury while giving Reyes a higher base salary as a trade off.
  4. 86mets February 7, 2011 at 10:03 am
    Alderson has NO, repeat NO intention of keeping Jose Reyes. I think he hates everything about Jose Reyes. He doesn’t walk enough, he steals TOO many bases, he doesn’t hit 35 Home Runs, he doesn’t have a .900 OPS, he plays with emotion. These are things that run contrary to Sandy Alderson’s view of how a player should perform. He wants 8 position players who have a .350 or greater OBP, slugging percentage of at least .500, and play it safe on the bases-NO stretching singles into doubles, NO attempting a stolen base to get into scoring position, NO scoring from 2nd on a single, NO hit and run, NO sac bunts. Alderson likes SAFE, QUIET players who never challenge the company philosophy and are, to be blunt, BORING.

    Make NO mistake, Jose Reyes’ days in a Mets uniform are clearly marked. I can see alderson dealing Reyes to the Braves for Martin Prado: the PERFECT alderson player: boring, good OBP & OPS who will suffer dramatic reductions in numbers playing in Citi Field. Meanwhile, Jose goes to Atlanta and torments the Mets for 5 or 6 years and hits about .400 against them during that time. But, hey, as long as sandy is happy with a .260 hitting 2nd baseman who follows sandy’s rules, that’s all that matters, right?

    • mike February 7, 2011 at 10:58 am
      The problem with that, 86Mets, is that Alderson and his all-star staff are also business people and trading Reyes to a division rival is not good business. If they were to trade Reyes part o the reasoning would be to control where he goes such that he doesn’t end up in the Bronx, Atlanta, or Philly. Heck even the Nationals. You may be right about the kind of players Alderson likes but you are wrong that Reyes can’t fit into his team. Wasn’t Rickey Henderson one of his stars in Oakland?

      I think it is a wrong conclusion to say that players who can stretch a double into a triple or score from 1st on a double are not Alderson guys. I think the high OPS player (on base + slugging) emphasizes scaring from first on an extra base hit. Think about it. A guy gets on base, and someone slugs a double to score him. I think what guys like Alderson hates is people who constantly run their teams out of an inning. I’m sorry but stealing second with no outs and your big poppers coming up doesn’t make sense when David Wright is just going to hit a double that Reyes would have scored from anyway. With 2 outs and Paul LaDuca at the plate, yes because all he needs is a single to score Reyes. That makes sense. I think smart base running and situational stealing fits well into the Alderson’s plan.

      The last thing is whether or not Reyes will be a met long term, and if not should they just trade him. I think if Reyes is not going to be a Met after 2011, then they should trade him when his value is the highest. If that is now, March 1, or July 31 I can’t say. But if the two draft picks is what Alderson wants then it will be hard to get a deal done because he clearly will want a King’s ransom for Jose.

      • 86mets February 7, 2011 at 11:37 am
        Yes, Henderson was one of his “Stars” in Oakland, but he put up with him because he drew walks & had the high OBP, NOT because he was a great baserunner and run creator because of his speed. Alderson and his moneyball pals HATE NL style ball: bunt, hit and run, steal a base, stretch a hit, etc., etc. I think you will see Alderson’s preference for sluggers w/ On Base ability as time goes on and he weeds out the speed guys (Reyes, Pagan-why do you think he didn’t negotiate a multi year deal w/ Angel, but did w/ Dickey?, Beltran). While I’d like to see Jose up his walks and get that OBP to around .350, he still has tremendous value offensively to the Mets and his energy cannot be easily replaced. Those are things that cannot be quantified by statistics and therefore are meaningless and of no value to pinheads like Alderson, DePodesta, and Ricciardi. I, for one, am looking forward to 2 things: One: New Ownership and Two: to see new ownership kick the Millionaire Club Front office out on the street before their contracts are up, THEN we will see positive change with the Mets.
        • mike February 8, 2011 at 1:50 pm
          You have seen zero actual results and you already hate them. What an ass. You realize Alderson and DePodesta both helped build the NL style Padres into a surprise contender with absolutely no money right? Why don’t you go cry some more about having competent management somewhere else.
    • Donal February 9, 2011 at 11:57 am
      So, in other words, you have no idea about Alderson’s philosphies or history.
  5. Ryan February 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm
    I don’t want to pee on the potato salad but any trade the Mets could be involved with right now would be leveraged heavily against them. The whole world knows the organization is flagging, at least in the near-term, and they will not get full value for Reyes on anyone’s trading block.

    That said, Alderson is more of a “foot note” than stolen bases will ever be. Something to be said for consistently reaching scoring position from the top of the order but I think that goes over the quants’ heads, generally speaking. Reyes is an impact player and a legitimate gate draw.

  6. Jason February 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm
    If you think Travis Wood is a potential ace, you should stop writing for this website right now..
    I almost laughed at that. Seriously. Reyes would command a top flight group of prospects from a stupid GM. But Please dont even bring Wood up. Sandy Alderson might be dumb enough himself to make that deal.
    The bigger issue for the Mets is are we going to be a slave to the slotting for draft picks or can we act like the big boy in the room that we are and draft and pay the top talent…
    • Matt Himelfarb February 7, 2011 at 7:14 pm
      Jason, Wood’s era. last season was 3.51, and his FIP was 3.42. That’s low number one, higher number two kind of pitching.

      Now, whether he can maintain that level of effectiveness is another question. But he’s looking pretty damn promising for a 23 year-old left-hander in his first season.

      At this point, I think he’s a lot more valuable than any compensation pick, which was my main point.

  7. Neil February 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm
    My dream scenario: The Mets are no where near contention at the All Star break. Reyes and Beltran show they can impact a winning team and get traded for talent rather than for salary relief.

    Feel free to hate on my dream, but this is a lost season with a mediocre team. I don’t want resources dumped into some halfway attempt at contention. That approach over the past few years is why there’s such a mess now.

    I have no faith in Reyes any more. I don’t want a .320 OBP in the lead off spot. I don’t want to wonder whether his hamstring or thyroid will be hurting in the Spring. By the end of last year, I cringed when he came to bat and he normally failed to deliver.

    He’s not worth a long term investment regardless of ownership’s finances.

    Mark my words: NO ONE will look back in 7 years and say, “Boy oh boy, that six year Reyes’ contract put us over the top!!”

    BTW 86mets, that 8 person team of .350 OBP and .500 SLG would go about 60 – 21 in Citi Field. High OBP and doubles power is all you need in this ballpark.

    I’ll take boring wins over exciting losses any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    • Steve from Norfolk February 7, 2011 at 10:18 pm
      You are forgetting a couple of things. Like:

      1) Four years of 150+ games played (2005-2008).

      2) He wouldn’t have lost so much time in 2009 if the team hadn’t kept trying to rush him back from the DL until his slightly torn hamstring finally tore completely.

      3) Even with his thyroid problem (caused by a seafood allergy he was unaware of and easily preventable) and the oblique problem, he still played 130 games last year.

      4) If he had been able to recover from the oblique problem, he could have had much better stats and still played 110 games.

      Your hindsight needs glasses.

      • Neil February 7, 2011 at 11:21 pm
        1) You’re bringing up a stretch that ended two years ago.

        2) What ifs aren’t enough to base $100 million contracts upon.

        3) IIRC he stated in January or early February that he finally feels 100% and didn’t over the course of ’10. It’s just more injury history. Even when disregarding the thyroid issue, he’s still a speedster playing shortstop with an oblique problem.

        4) Another what if.

        If you see the glass half full, so be it; but that perspective does not warrant 6 or 7 years at well over $100,000,000.

        He’s been in the league for 8 seasons and he’s had four healthy ones. You can argue that his individual injuries aren’t “related”, but there’s obviously something wrong somewhere with his body; his approach or both.

        There’s also that career .335 OBP (.321 last year). That’s a pretty important statistic for a lead off hitter. He’s topped .350 four times, but never .360.

        You can’t steal first…

        • Donal February 9, 2011 at 11:59 am
          What is Reyes’ carrer Runs Created?
    • Steve from Norfolk February 7, 2011 at 10:21 pm
      Meant to say “If he had been able to take enough time to recover”. Sorry about that.
  8. gary s. February 8, 2011 at 1:10 am
    Are you all forgetting that the Owner is broke and the team is probably going to be sold?That does not bode well for anyone getting a 6 year 100 mill deal.