At the end of 2011, Jose Reyes will become an unrestricted free agent. As one of the cornerstones of the Mets franchise, it is a bit difficult to picture the future of the team without him. Fans of the team have watch him grow from prospect to star over his years of team control. In truth, Jose is my favorite player on the Mets – as he is the one player I enjoy watching play more than any other.
Given that Reyes fills two roles that are tough to replace: the leadoff hitter and the shortstop, he’s certainly going to be in demand on the free agent market. When you take into account his age, his popularity, and his reputation, there will obviously be a great deal of interest in Jose from a number of major league teams, competitive and otherwise. With the Mets in serious financial trouble (how serious is still a matter of contention), it is possible that they may not have the money to match a competitive offer for Reyes on the open market. And that’s even if Jose is willing to take even money to remain a Met, and isn’t interested in getting a fresh start in another city.
I absolutely believe that if the Mets have the money, they would be best served signing Jose to a competitive extension – something along the lines of four years at twelve-to-fourteen million dollars a year. But in truth, I don’t think that they will be able to make this offer, and even if they do, they may still be outbid by another team.
For this reason, I advocate trading Jose Reyes at the midpoint of the season.
Jose had a down year last year, and is entering the walk year of his contract. History shows that players do tend to increase performance in the final year of their first contract, and Jose is still peaking as a player, so it is reasonable to imagine that Jose will at least slightly improve his numbers from last year.
The Mets have holes, no question. Turning Jose Reyes into one of the most important assets in the game – young pitching, will fill a huge, gaping need that the Mets have. And acquiring young, good pitching is remarkably difficult at this stage in major league baseball. Teams cling to young starters with the icy cold grip of death. But Jose Reyes is the type of dynamic player that could pry a legitimate starting pitcher away from a team that needs a shortstop. So long as a team is committed to signing Reyes to an extension, it isn’t ridiculous to believe that the Mets could pry away a young starter with potential, and a couple of other lesser pieces, for the short-term rental and extension window that Reyes would provide a team.
Off the top of my head, here are some teams that may be a good fit as a trading partner for Jose:
The Oakland Athletics – Though Jose may not have the OBP to be a great fit in Billy Beane’s system, the A’s could benefit from Reyes’s star power and the team could afford to give up a player like Gio Gonzalez and still have a solid rotation.
The Toronto Blue Jays – Again, Jose would fill a role on the Jays that’s very difficult to fill internally. The Jays have spent a lot of time acquiring quality young arms. While I can’t imagine them giving up on Drabek or Romero, there’s a chance that Reyes might pry Brandon Morrow loose, and Morrow would benefit greatly from a move to Citi Field. This might be too much wishful thinking, though.
The Baltimore Orioles – Jose Reyes would be an immediate upgrade over newly-acquired JJ Hardy, and would certainly be a better option for the long-term. Building a package around Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta might be worth it for a Baltimore team desperate to make a splash in the ultra-competitive AL East.
The Cincinnati Reds – Another team on the cusp of being really competitive, the Reds have more than a couple of young starters. Homer Bailey or Travis Wood might make a good cornerstone of a package for Reyes – though this may not be enough of a return for Jose. Another option is to acquire Yonder Alonso as part of this deal, and flip him to another team (Washington?) for another piece.
Honestly, the Reds seem to make the most sense from the perspective of a team that is on the brink of really competing for a title, with a limited window for success, and enough resources to make a deal that works for both teams. While I would love to see Jose Reyes in a Mets uniform for years to come, if there’s a good chance he’ll leave after 2011 – the team needs to acquire a viable resource instead of letting him go for free.