‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Face of the franchise, top of the order sparkplug, heartbeat of the team… all describe Jose Reyes’ value to the Mets.  It may be difficult for fans to imagine Reyes wearing any uniform other than orange, blue and black but this is an imminent reality they will face in the weeks leading up to the July 31st trading deadline.

Fans made their stance clear during the Mets’ ten-game home stand, showing their full support toward Reyes being handled a long-term extension.  Citi Field was littered with signs and banners attempting to urge ownership to keep the shortstop.

The most noticeable display occurred along “Shea Bridge” amid the series opener against the Atlanta Braves.  Organized by Darren Meenan of The7Line Blog, around 800 Mets fans lined the bridge situated beyond the right-center field wall.  Armed with colorful signs and sombreros they began chants that spread across Citi Field such as “Don’t Trade Jose.”

I admire these fans for their loyalty to the Mets’ superstar shortstop, but their efforts are destined to be in vain.  Even in the unlikely event the team offers a seven-year, $140 million contract before season’s end, it would be promptly turned down by Reyes and his agent Peter Greenberg.  Your “Average Joe or Jane” Mets fan expects that Reyes would re-sign without any hesitation. But they’re looking at things from their own point of view and not that of Reyes.

Why shouldn’t Jose test the free agent waters? Why would he commit himself to a team that is expected to slash payroll for the 2012 season while parting with Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez?  The upcoming offseason will be Reyes’ only opportunity to control where he will play for the majority of his remaining career and he’ll want to attach himself to World Series-contending club.

COUNTERPOINT: Coutinho: Reyes Will Wear Mets Uni After Deadline

Having seen Jayson Werth command a seven-year $126M deal at the age of 31, anything is possible in free agency.  Reyes is having an MVP-caliber season and the best of his nine-year major league career.  On the open market, he would likely exceed the seven-year, $142 million contract the Boston Red Sox bestowed upon Carl Crawford.  At 27, Reyes is two years younger than Crawford and as a shortstop is an even rarer talent at a need position for most teams.  Unlike Crawford, Reyes is a natural leadoff hitter and a far superior fielder.

The Mets need only to look at the history of recent trade deadline deals involving contract-year stars to understand what is best for their future.  Last year, the Seattle Mariners were able to acquire power-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak along with additional prospects from the Texas Rangers for Cliff Lee.  The Cleveland Indians made a similar deal that included Matt LaPorta when they moved CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.

I’d wager that the Mets would be able to go well beyond the talent received in either of those trades in a blockbuster swap involving Reyes.  It would be in their best interest to land multiple top prospects rather than to hold on to Reyes, lose him in free agency and be given compensatory draft picks.  I can guarantee you that a contending ballclub is willing to give up a collection of their best minor leaguers to have Reyes for the stretch run and playoffs.

With Ruben Tejada ready to shift over to shortstop, the Mets have a ready-made solution available at the major league level.  Tejada is captivating fans at Citi Field with his superb glove and is more advanced at the plate than expected — he is currently batting .304.  The Amazin’s have a solid long-term plan in place with uber-prospect Wilmer Flores waiting in the wings.  Although not yet ready for the big leagues, Flores possesses a powerful bat and is expected to progress quickly through the Mets’ farm system.

It may be hard for Mets fans to take but dealing away Reyes makes sense on many levels.  There will certainly be a backlash directed toward ownership if Jose is traded but fans won’t feel that way in a few years when Flores is the new face of the franchise.  If the players received in exchange for Reyes are complimenting Flores in a future Mets’ lineup, fans will look back at trading their superstar as the correct decision.

What would be fair value for Reyes in your estimation?  Is Tejada ready to step into his place?  Sound off below or send Sean a tweet @HartyLFC.

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