Is it a good investment for the Mets to sign Reyes? Or should they let him go, and invest the money elsewhere.
From a fan’s perspective, it is an easy answer. Sign him, no matter the cost. I mean, why not right? They technically don’t have to pay for it (except for higher ticket prices).
From a business perspective however, things get a lot more complicated.
Say what you want about David Wright, good or bad, Jose Reyes has become the face of the franchise, and people pay a lot of money just to Jose play.
Think about it, every aspect of his game is exciting, even when he is not on the field.
Ignore his immense talents on the field for a moment, his off the field persona would be a huge loss for the franchise.
The smile and energy of Jose Reyes have captivated Mets fans for years.
His jerseys are everywhere in Citi Field, and when he comes out to stretch before every game, no player draws a bigger crowd. As such, without him, ticket sales will most assuredly go down. The fan base will lose one of their own, and even though Ruben Tejada will be a capable replacement, and he will be, there will not be any “Ru-ben…Ruben-Ruben-Ruben” chants any time soon. Reyes even records his own at-bat music. There isn't much he cannot do.
As for his on the field skills, we begin with his defense.
His peak years were in 2006 and 2007, where, according to fangraphs.com’s defensive metric,“TZ” ,he saved the Mets a combined 22 runs. From 2008 – 2010 however, he actually cost the Mets two runs.
I did not put too much stock in these numbers, because they are mainly due to numbers his inability to stay healthy. He still has incredible range, not to mention a simple flick of his wrist and the ball flies like a cannon to first.
Then we get to his speed.
When he hits a ball into the gap, the stadium just lights up.
Everyone watches, holding their breath in awe, as he flies around the bases. His tongue dangles as he zooms past first, with the fans waiting for his inevitable head first slide into third for an easy triple, as he pumps up the crowd with some emphatic claps dusting himself off. It is beautiful to watch.
When he only manages a single or a walk, he then becomes one of the most dangerous players in all of baseball.
His ability to steal bases and use his speed to take the extra base is uncanny. With 370 steals, he is already 89 steals ahead of Mookie Wilson for first place on the Mets all-time list. One negative is that he has not been as prevalent on the bases in recent seasons. After averaging 72 steals from 2005-2008, he has averaged 27 over the past three years. He is still a burner, but with his leg injuries, he is more cautious on the bases, and while he is still always a threat to run, he is not as valuable on the bases as he once was.
That brings us to his bat, which as Larry David would say, is pretty good.
His ability to hit the ball in the gaps is extraordinary. Over the past two seasons, he averaged 52 extra base hits. Last season, he finished 17th in the National League in slugging percentage. Getting that type of production from a position traditionally saved for defense brings an incredible value to a team.
For his career, Reyes is a career .292 hitter. When looking at his other numbers on a per-season basis (162 games), he averages 113 runs, 201 hits, 57 stolen bases a season.
Again, pretayyy, pretayyy good.
Last year, he found a way to play even better, and it seemed like he got better with every game he played.
He hit.308 in April, followed by a .364 May, and climaxed with a .385 June. In 42 out of his first 78 games, he recorded a multiple hit game. In more than half of the games he played, he had at least two hits!
It was incredible to watch.
He finished first in runs, stolen bases, on-base percentage, and triples (he had 16, second place had 9), second in slugging percentage and tied for fourth in doubles amongst all short stops. He got hurt on July 2, and unfortunately for him and the Mets, he did not have the same mojo when he returned. Had he not gotten hurt, Reyes probably would have been the National League MVP.
That has been the epitome of Jose Reyes throughout his entire career. “Had he not gotten hurt.”
Those five words have been said way too many times. There is no skepticism revolving around his talent, or his personality in the clubhouse. The only reason teams are at all hesitant to sign him is because of the hamstring issues he has had, and the potential for those to continue in the future. These injuries have caused him to miss 191 games over the last three seasons.
For a summary on what Sandy Alderson and many other front office executives are thinking, here is a quote from Keith Law, the lead baseball analyst for Scouts Inc and current MLB writer for ESPN:
“Reyes would be first on this list if he came into it with a clean medical record. A 28-year-old shortstop who can hit, take a walk and add value on the bases, all while showing a little pop, is a pretty valuable commodity, but Reyes has had chronic hamstring problems that nearly derailed his career”The Mets have lacked the depth necessary to be a consistent contender since their World Series run back in 2000. Locking up a player with a documented injury history, regardless of his talent, will not help in that regard.
You also have to consider the Mets’ position outside of Jose Reyes.
Financially, the Mets are not in the place to spend upwards of $140 million on the team payroll like they were a couple of years ago.
With a reduced revenue stream, because of lower ticket sales and the Madoff lawsuit, Sandy Alderson has said the payroll will be between $100M - $110M. Considering the Mets have already committed $55 million to three players in David Wright, Jason Bay and Johan Santana, and they also have Pagan and Pelfrey headed for arbitration for around $11M if they are tendered a contract. That means signing Reyes to a deal for around $17-$18 million a year only leaves about $20M for the rest of team. This is a team that finished eight games under .500.
Another problem, as was eloquently talked about on grantland, is I do not expect Jose to take a home-town discount to stay in New York.
However, despite the massive injury risk and the salary commitments the Mets already have, the Mets should make an appropriate offer to Jose, ensuring he stays in orange and blue, home-town discount or not.
As he proved this season, a healthy Jose Reyes can keep this team afloat, no matter who his teammates are.
Remember, the Mets were 41-42 when Reyes first injured his hamstring that game July 2. Granted, that is nothing to brag about, but when you look back at the roster, you will see a team ravished by injuries and poor play. David Wright had been injured for much of the season up until then, and did not have a good first half. Jason Bay started the season injured, and frankly, was never very good anyway and Johan Santana missed the entire season. At that point in the season, Reyes was the only Mets player with an average over .300, at a non too shabby .354.
With the new dimensions of Citi Field projected to help out David Wright and Jason Bay among others, I believe the Mets are closer to competing than others make them out to be. With a lineup of Reyes, a healthy Ike Davis, and two potent power hitters in Wright and Bay, the Mets will score some runs.
On top of that, a bullpen is a potentially easy fix because excluding Mariano Rivera, good bullpen fluctuate every year.
The Tampa Bay Rays changed their entire bullpen personnel from 2010 going into 2011. They lost some of the best relievers in the AL from 2010 in Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, Rafael Soriano and Randy Choate, who signed for a combined $65.1 million in the offseason.
Who did they replace them with? A bunch of nobodies.
Kyle Farnsworth, Brandon Gomes, Joel Peralta, Adam Russell, Alex Cobb, Cesar Ramos, Juan Cruz, and Jake McGee.
Besides Farnsworth, are any of these people recognizable? No. But was that a problem? Even bigger no.
In 2010, the Rays pitching staff ERA was 3.78. In 2011, it was 3.58.
Another great example, is the 2011 World Series Champions St. Louis Cardinals.
Look at these names: Arthur Rhodes, Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Octavio Dotel, Mitchell Boggs, Marc Rzepczynski, Eduardo Sanchez, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and Ryan Franklin.
Again, another bunch of no-names, that include people that other teams, the Mets included, could have had very easily.
It just goes to show, that even with the Mets financial struggles, you don’t need big names in your bullpen to win. Yes, Tony Larussa and Joe Madden are two of the best managers in all of baseball. However, Terry Collins showed he was more than capable last season and with some savy additions this offseason, they have a chance at becoming a dominant group to close a game.
As for the starting rotation, next year could be a struggle, but the Mets have a lot of high-end talent on the way. With Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia all starting next season at or above AA Binghamton, the Mets have four potential front of the rotation starters within two years of reaching the big leagues.
At the big league level, the Mets will have two good, consistent starters in R.A Dickey and Jon Niese.
Beyond that, there is the perpetual question mark that is Mike Pelfrey. If the Mets tender him a contract, he will slot into the fourth spot in the rotation, and hopefully improve upon his performance this past season.
Then we get to Dillon Gee. He showed a lot of promise early in the season, and he looks like a solid back of the rotation starter, of the Rick Reed mold. More a gamer with smarts, than the ability to beat a team with pure stuff.
Finally, we get to Johan Santana. The Mets are hopeful they can get some positive returns on Johan, considering they are paying him about $23M next season. Regardless of what he produces, having his experience and competitiveness in the clubhouse will do nothing but good, as I expect him to be able to contribute, and put up statistics similar to a third starter.
The point is, while the Mets most certainly have holes, they are not gaping holes.
With Reyes, and some smart, high upside additions to the bullpen, this team will be able to compete.
Without Reyes, the Mets not only will lose their leadoff hitter and most dynamic player, but they will disappoint millions of fans, and the income and ratings they bring the organization.
Let’s face it, baseball is a business.
Jose Reyes is the Mets most unique and most important asset. He is the person that brings in the greatest amount of revenue for the franchise.
Five years from now could we look back and call this a bad investment? Of course, but what five year investment does not have its risks?
Remember Carl Crawford and his “safe” contract. He was such a good player, the team that got him would be getting a superstar for the next five or six years. He was so good, that he had never hit less than .273, with 46+ steals in seven out of his eight past seasons before 2011. Well, he went on to hit .255, with 18 steals and being a huge disappointment for the Red Sox last season.
The Mets would be crazy to not at least try and sign Reyes.
He is too important to the team on the field, and too important to the fans off it to let him go to another team. I think a deal structured around five guaranteed years at $18 annually, with a couple option years at the end of the contract, based on his games played in years four and five, could satisfy both Jose’s need for a long term contract, and the Mets needs of some insurance in case he does get hurt.
So after months of going back and forth, today, I could not be more certain.
The Mets need Jose Reyes. I just hope Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta and crew can find a way to make it happen.
Follow Zach on twitter @MetsVibe!