Does Rickie Weeks Deal Impact Jose Reyes?
Earlier this week, it was announced that the Milwaukee Brewers signed second baseman Rickie Weeks to a 4-year, $38M contract extension (that could go 5 years/$50M if he stays healthy). Essentially, the Brewers have locked up Weeks through what many consider the “prime years” of a player’s career — ages 28-31.
I look at this deal and wonder if the Mets would do something similar with Jose Reyes?
Granted, Weeks and Reyes are different ballplayers — but they’re not THAT different. They both play a middle infield position, they both bring an exciting mix of speed and power to the table, they’ve both struggled with injuries throughout their career, and they are similar in age (Reyes is a year younger). Of course, they apply their similar offensive skill sets differently — Weeks hits more homeruns and strikes out more often, while Reyes steals more bases and hits for a higher average. Last year, Weeks was better at getting on base (.366 to .321), but Reyes’ OBP in his healthy years previous is right in that ballpark (.354,.354,.358 from ’06 – ’08).
At shortstop, Jose Reyes has more defensive value — just by the nature of the position being more important and generally more difficult to fill with an offensive force. As with his OBP, Reyes’ defense went backward last year, but again, in his healthy years, he proved to be at least average to above-average defensively.
The major difference between the two players — beyond the homerun and strikeout numbers — is that Weeks finally played in 150 games and had a career year in 2010, whereas Reyes had his second straight season impacted by injury / illness. That said, it could be argued that the Brewers are paying Weeks when his value is at his highest, while the Mets have the opportunity to extend Reyes when his value is at its lowest. And if four years and $38M is the best that Weeks can do after a career year, one could suggest that Reyes — coming off a poor year — would be lucky to get such a deal right now.
Of course, there is the theory that Reyes will continue to get worse and worse, and/or will never play in 150+ games again. But that’s the case with every ballplayer, isn’t it? No matter who it is, there’s some kind of risk involved when signing players to multi-year deals. There was risk in the Johan Santana, Jason Bay, and Luis Castillo deals, for example — but those were players signed at their peak value, and after their peak years were behind them. There’s a chance now to lock up a talented ballplayer at his lowest value through his peak years — how often does that opportunity arise? And how often at a premium position such as shortstop?
There’s been a lot of buzz in Mets parts about the “moneyball” philosophy and the tremendous job the new front office has done working under a tight budget this winter. And I agree, they’ve done well in stretching the dollar. But getting players on cheap, short term deals to fill immediate holes — i.e., minimizing risk — is only half the game. To succeed over the long haul, you have to also be “smart” by maximizing opportunity — in other words, identifying bargains and keeping them at bargain rates in the future.
If Fred Wilpon is truthful when he says that there are no financial constraints — which I don’t believe — then why wouldn’t the Mets sit down Jose Reyes right now and discuss a deal that is similar to what was recently negotiated with Weeks? Granted, it would have to be a bit more, since Reyes makes $11M this year, but it wouldn’t have to have an annual salary much higher — it could be less than $15M — and it wouldn’t have to be anywhere near the 5-7+ year term that Reyes will demand next winter if he plays a full season and performs as well as is expected.
Let’s face it — there’s no way that it will make sense for the Mets to enter into one of those mega-deals with Reyes, even if he plays all 162 games and wins the Triple Crown. And even if he continues to put up merely a .750-.800 OPS over the next 3-4 years as an average-fielding shortstop, that’s still likely to be better than someone else the Mets can find to play the position. After all, they have no one in the minors projected to be a shortstop with that kind of offensive potential, there’s no one comparable coming up on the free agent market in the next two years, and the Mets don’t and won’t have the trading chips to acquire a shortstop of that caliber.
One last thing: if the Mets sign Reyes to a manageable, affordable extension now, he’ll be more attractive as a trading chip later this year and next year — and that might be the best reason to lock him up now.