The Reyes Dilemma

NOTE: this is a guest post by Mike Steffanos of Mike’s Mets

While Sandy Alderson had to know the job he was taking on with the Mets would not be easy, I wonder if he understood completely just how difficult it might be.

He must have had some idea of the money problems. Fred Wilpon falling for a Ponzi scheme made the financial picture extremely murky going in. Still, add in a serious recession, poor team performances (with correspondingly disillusioned fans) and stadium debt contributing to a problematic bottom line, and the current Mets finances look downright disastrous.

Meanwhile, fans have been growing more dissatisfied with the Wilpons over the years as the poorly run Mets have become a joke around baseball. The hostility grows further with the perception of fans that the Wilpons’ troubled finances will preclude the team from seriously contending to keep the services of free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes.

Heading into the season the media was constantly promoting the idea that Reyes would be traded away by the deadline. The rationale primarily came down to these points:

a. Reyes didn’t walk enough to satisfy Alderson’s Moneyball sensibilities.
b. Injury concerns would preclude the Mets from offering the 6- or 7-year contract that he will be offered by others, and Sandy doesn’t like those long-term deals, anyway.
c. Even if a and b weren’t enough to keep them from resigning Reyes, the Wilpon’s finances would.

All spring I kept reading one pundit after another telling me that the Mets needed to accept reality and ship Jose Reyes out for the boatload of prospects with which to rebuild. This ignored the tendency in recent years for clubs to resist dealing prime prospects for players knocking on the door of free agency. Mark Teixeira — a star player in his prime — only netted the Braves Steve Marek and Casey Kotchman when they shipped him to the Angels in 2008. If Alderson made that sort of a deal with Reyes he would be run out of town.

The conventional wisdom has come around to the likelihood that Reyes will stay in New York through the end of the season. The bigger question now seems to be whether or not the Mets will make a real effort to keep their shortstop beyond this season.

The Post’s Joel Sherman, who spent all spring writing that the Mets must trade Reyes, now writes that losing Reyes without making a serious attempt to re-sign him would be a “disaster” for the Mets. The risks involved in signing Reyes to a long-term deal are real, but so is the likelihood that allowing Reyes to walk would solidify the perception that finances were dictating baseball decisions. I think Sherman is on the money here.

It’s one thing for a team that plays in small market — and charges small market prices — to decide that they just can’t afford to keep a popular player. Large market teams just don’t have that luxury, unless they’re willing to deal with the perception that they’re not really trying. Add into this mix the frustration that the vast majority of Mets fans already feel with Fred Wilpon and you could be looking at a real fan revolt at a time when the Mets are desperately trying to convince fans to come back.

Of course, if the Mets go the route of trying to retain Reyes there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to keep him, particularly if a club out there offers Jose that magic 7-year deal that the Mets supposedly won’t consider.

In a column on, Ken Rosenthal cites a source that the Mets were initially hoping to get Reyes back by offering 3 years, $45 – 50 million, but realize that there is no chance of that happening. Still, at least according to Rosenthal, they’re not willing to go 7 years — making the question whether there is a compromise somewhere in between that will satisfy everyone.

My personal preference is for the Mets to keep Reyes, but not at any price. I don’t think it would be prudent to offer a contract like the 7-year, $142 million deal that Carl Crawford signed with Boston. On the other hand, though, I find it hard to believe that Reyes would have to settle for something considerably less as a 28-year-old star player playing a premium defensive position.

Maybe the Mets could get Reyes to accept option years at the end of the contract based on games played that would offer them some sort of protection if Reyes’ legs don’t hold up. There’s nothing like that in Crawford’s contract, but he had a better record of durability than Reyes.

To me, the biggest potential danger for the Mets wouldn’t be a failure to keep Reyes if another team offered a contract that was really outlandish, but rather the perception that they weren’t really serious in their negotiations.

I think back to the Vlad Guerrero fiasco back in 2004 when it seemed the Mets made a weak attempt to negotiate with Guerrero when it became obvious he wasn’t going to get a huge deal from anyone. He wound up signing with the Angels for 5 years, $70 million, and the Mets wound up looking like foolish cheapskates with their token offer.

In that case it would have been better if they just declined to negotiate. Frankly, if they’re not willing to be a little creative in their dealings with Reyes they should just let him go. It will be a big PR hit, obviously, but a dragged-out process where it’s clear that they’re not being serious would only do more harm.

In my opinion, the Wilpons really are at a crossroads. Their financial situation is precarious and their popularity with the fans is quite low. Most fans understand that the Mets have to invest their money more wisely than they have over the last couple of decades, but ownership can’t afford to be seen as merely pinching pennies at the expense of trying to win.

Winning back Mets fans will be a tough go got the Wilpons, but if they mishandle the Reyes negotiations they might find whatever good will they have left is gone.

That’s my opinion — what do you feel the Mets need to do with Jose Reyes? Please post your thoughts in the comments.

Mike Steffanos is the founder of Mike's Mets, a blog that's been respected and enjoyed by many fans since 2005. Mike began blogging about the Mets because he got tired of listening to so-called "experts" speak for him as a Met fan, and also, because he contracted Lyme Disease and needed something else to obsess over. After a brief hiatus from blogging, Mike is back at the keyboard and will occasionally offer his perspective here at MetsToday.
  1. izzy June 14, 2011 at 6:50 am
    Alderson has cost the Mets scores of millions by his false statement that he needs to evaluate Reyes. He could have taken a rosk last Winter and gotten Reyes to sign in any of the ways you suggest above. Reyes is now the hot ticket. There is a need for a SS in Boston. There is probably a need for a SS in Philly with the slowiing and quicky aging Rollins becoming a FA. Jeter’s injury makes it easier for Cashman to get him to move off SS for the younger Reyes. Washington has the richest owner in baseball who has shown he’ll gove 20 plus mil to a far lesser player than Reyes. Why should Reyes help the Wilpons. He gave them a cheap contract for security once. He’s sitting on a gold mine now. All he has to do is wait for FA day to arrive.
    • Dan N. June 14, 2011 at 7:34 am
      Yeah, I agree. I mean, you’re not only looking at big markets that Reyes can get big money with. Look at a team like Cinncinati. Janish and Renteria have a combine OBP of under .300. They desperately need a shortstop. I don’t think the Mets will trade him, but, if Reyes holds up all season, it seems like someone out there will pay ridiculous money to get him. As much as I don’t want it to happen I think someone will pay more than the Mets are willing to pay.
      • FrankTaveras June 14, 2011 at 11:22 am
        Janish would be a better hitter if he spent more time in the cage and less time blogging about the Mets.
        • Joshua George June 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm
          Joe Janish doesn’t play baseball
        • Mike Steffanos June 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm
          Frank Tavares’ lifetime slash line: .255/.301/.313

          An arguement can be made that he wasn’t really playing baseball, either.

    • Chris from Freehold June 14, 2011 at 6:47 pm
      6 Years and $110M may not be “fair” considering Werth and Crawford, but it is “serious” for a player with his injury status. If the Mets offer that number (and I have no idea if they will even be in a position to do so) and Jose goes elsewhere, God Bless Him. But I’m NOT trashing Sandy for that. For heaven’s sake, he didn’t have anything to do with this mess.
  2. Paul June 14, 2011 at 8:05 am
    Without knowing the situation of the Mets’ finances, it’s impossible to say whether they should keep Reyes or not.

    Reyes is a good player now, one of the best at his position. He will not be one of the best at his position at the end of a 5 to 7-year contract.

    If the Mets can afford to re-sign Reyes, keep Wright AND STILL ADD MORE PLAYERS AROUND THEM, we’ll all be happy.

    If the Mets scrape to keep Reyes & Wright together, but can’t afford to do anything beyond that, who’s really going to be happy? Do you want to watch them play on .500 teams for the rest of their careers?

    There’s no way to separate baseball and finances on this one.

  3. Steve S. June 14, 2011 at 9:10 am
    I believe that Alderson knows how the fans will react to Reyes leaving without a serious offer coming from the Mets. No way will he be traded in a mediocre deadline deal. If the Mets can’t sign him, they’ll take the two high draft picks.

    What’s a fair deal to keep him? How about six years for $110m plus a seventh-year option based on games played.

    And I think it was reasonable for Alderson to evaluate Jose’s performance before trying to sign him, considering his poor hitting habits in the recent past.

    • izzy June 14, 2011 at 9:26 am
      So you think Sandy Alderson was so outside mainstream baseball that he couldn’t evaluate an established player? Wow! Then he shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. Why is 110 for 6 years a fair deal? Isn’t a fair deal whatever the market will say a fiar deal is next Fall/Winter? Why is it fair for Jose to make less than a Werth or a Crawford? Isn’t the “fair” thing to see what he can get in an open market? The Mets had their chance to get him at their “fair” deal and were too chicken to take a risk. Now they have to fight the free agent market. They got what they asked for and he got hot and the Mets lost.
      • Steve S. June 14, 2011 at 10:02 am
        Who’s to say that another GM would have signed Reyes last off season?

        Yes, the market price for guys like Werth and Crawford are “fair” on the surface. You could say that for Zito, too.

        BTW, Fangraphs has Reyes valued at $17.1m/yr.

        • Steve S. June 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm
          And one agent’s guess ( reported by Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports) is that Reyes could get a bit more than Crawford: seven years, $145 million. “Reyes is among baseball’s five most exciting players and a candidate to match Carl Crawford’s(notes) seven-year, $142 million deal – which is the latest in a long line of Boston stinkers, from Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) ($103 million for 4¼ seasons) to John Lackey(notes) (four years left on a five-year, $82.5 million deal) to J.D. Drew(notes) (five years and $70 million worth of above-average, if patently uninspired, baseball). It’s Reyes’ magic number because he steals bases the way Crawford used to; plays a more demanding position (shortstop); hits for more power; will be a year younger at free agency (at 28); and produces at an MVP level when he’s healthy. Which is infrequently enough for one of those red flags to wave like it’s a Soviet Union rally. But no. Teams trust their trainers and luck, and free agency was made for someone like Jose Reyes, who still hasn’t fully realized his greatness.”

          And for Carlos Beltran? “The agent’s guess: three years, $36 million, the sort of feat only Boras could pull off and the kind of money that ….” “He can’t run anymore and plays marginal defense in right field. His bat remains enough of a weapon to make up for both issues.”

  4. Mike Steffanos June 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm
    I agree that if the Mets had signed Reyes over the winter they could have saved some money over what it might cost now. On the other hand, he hadn’t been healthy over the past 2 seasons, so I can’t really fault them for waiting to see if he was fully healthy again, Plus you had a new management team coming in.

    I still think a smart GM can figure out how to keep him here without sacrificing the flexibility needed to rebuild the team. The wildcard might be a team willing to overpay him similar to the Nats with Werth last winter. I know that I would understand him going somewhere else under those circumstances.

    What worries me more is the Guerrero scenario. If Alderson wants to completely lose his credibility with the fans that would be the way to do it.

  5. Jerseymet June 14, 2011 at 4:26 pm
    Jose is having a great year! God bless him. He will get paid more than the Wilpons can afford. When he walks were going to get a couple of top draft picks. Lets enjoy him while he is still here!
  6. Staten Island Jim June 15, 2011 at 2:41 am
    If Wilpon can pay that stiff Jason Bay 66 million for 4 years (16 1/2 million per year), then he can pay Jose Reyes 120 million for 6 years (20 million per year). I don’t want to hear that he doesn’t have the money. This is New York, you get the money Mr. Wilpon. I don’t give a damn if you have to sell the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to Goldman Sachs, and they replace Jackie’s statue with a Michael Bloomberg statue. Then if another team is willing to give Reyes 140 million for 7 years, so be it. At least you made a serious offer.
  7. The Emmis June 15, 2011 at 3:40 am
    I find it troubling that in past years when Reyes was completely healthy, he never played quite as well or as consistently as he’s playing right now. In his best years, he was very streaky, an undisciplined left-handed hitter (.260 BA average) with an average OBP. Often Reyes would not run out routine “outs”. Clearly, he’s one of the most talented players in baseball but suddenly raising his “game” in the last year of his contract is an indication he may not give 100% once he gets the really big bucks. His past history shows that while very talented, he’s not a top shelf professional. (See Oliver Perez). Every FA contract Mets have written since Pedro Martinez has been a mini or major disaster due to either chronic injuries or gross underperformance. Its obvious Mets have spent their FA dollars on the WRONG players. FA signings are a powerful way to fill a weakness without giving up much talent but you have to put your money on the right horse. Mets should offer Reyes shorter deal (3-4 years) at a very high annual wage (25 mil +) with an easy to reach incentive for additional years. He’s worth the highest annual salary. No other player can draw fans to CitiField like Reyes. If Reyes demands the long-term deal, let him walk and take the high draft picks in compensation. Long term, Mets will be a better team with a strong farm system. Their slide into mediocrity since 2006 is due to a failed farm system (getting better now) that produced very little major league talent. Consider that Lastings Milledge was considered the best position player in the farm system 3 years ago, and Fernando Martinez was overhyped by Minaya. If he has arthritic knees, at 22 his career might be over. The harsh reality is even if Wilpons sell (they may have to), its far from certain that a new Mets regime will be any better at developing and acquiring talent. The fact that Einhorn is a life long Mets fan doesn’t mean he will know how to create a winner. I’m a life long Mets fan and I know I’m not qualified. Putting up 200 Million may buy you a share of the team but it doesn’t increase your baseball IQ. There are numerous example in professional sports of wealthy life long fans who buy the team they love and their team never wins. Snyder’s Redskins are a good example. The good news is that new GM Alderson has real experience and that may make the difference.
    • Mike Steffanos June 15, 2011 at 2:04 pm
      I agree with you completely on the farm system.

      As for Reyes, I think being truly healthy and a little wiser has something to do with his level of play this year. I would disagree that Reyes hasn’t always given 100%. What I’ve seen from him in the past is a tendency to try too hard at times and make mental mistakes. I think there is less of that this year.

      On the other hand, I don’t think he’s going to bat .340 this year. Sooner or later he’ll have a slump. I have no idea what his price will eventually be, and I agree that I don’t want to see them resign him at any cost. I just want to see a serious effort.

      What you say about Einhorn is true. I would hope that if he does take over the team he might be smart enough to look at the mistakes the Wilpons have made over the years and avoid them.

  8. R June 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm
    You can’t rule out the fact that Reyes smells a bit of Perez right now. Same for Beltran. Overproduction in a renewal year is scary. If Reyes wants more money he should have BEEN playing for the better contract in the past seasons, injuries excluded.

    I hope to God that if we keep him we aren’t sorry we did, a la Perez.