By Rich Coutinho
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For an organization that has now gone five seasons without a playoff appearance and possesses one of the sport’s biggest payrolls, there are many challenges for the New York Mets. But the issue that Sandy Alderson must tackle first is re-signing Jose Reyes. Sure, this team has other problems like a leaky bullpen but the Reyes decision will impact greatly the path Sandy Alderson will take this off-season. And not signing Reyes could have far-reaching implications for this franchise both long-term and short-term.
I think readers of this blog know how I feel about this situation and it is not necessarily how most beat writers feel about it. Jose Reyes is as much the face of this organization as David Wright and both players are part of the solution-not part of the problem. Reyes had a great season, and aside from the two stints on the DL, his year was just about perfect. He is a game changer with the way he approaches every at-bat and the way he runs the bases. But often times we forget how good a defensive shortstop he is–in my view the best in the sport because his speed allows him to get to balls other players don’t and his arm allows him to make throws others can’t.
Jose and I have talked a little about next year even though he was clear he did not want to tackle the subject until after the season. But he made it crystal clear he wants to be back here next year because he loves playing here and his family loves living here. Sandy Alderson had admitted to me that he acknowledges what an important player Jose Reyes is both on the field and off the field. “The fans love him and that has to enter the equation”, says Alderson. The pressure on the Mets will be enormous to sign Reyes because I could picture the criticism they would receive if they let a player go who became the first play in the team’s 50 year history to win a batting title and who is still very much in the prime of his baseball career.
But ultimately I think both parties want it and this is an organization, despite the shots the media takes at it, that generally retains a player if they really want him. Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, and John Franco are examples of that fact and much like Piazza, the departure of Reyes won’t happen in my opinion. If you remember the Piazza case, it is very similar to the case of Reyes in that both were having great seasons in their walk years. Both also did not want to talk contract until the season was over. Both also said they would give the Mets every opportunity in their exclusive negotiating period. Piazza told the Mets what he wanted and after a few phone calls back and forth, a deal got done BEFORE the free agency period.
What I would give Reyes is six years at $17 million per for a total of $102 million with a vesting option in year seven if he plays in an average of 150 games for the duration of the six year deal. He would deserve that seventh year if he reaches that benchmark. Is that a lot of money? You bet it is, but the simple truth is Jose Reyes deserves it because he is the best leadoff hitter in the sport and plays an important defensive position better than anyone has in the history of the franchise. Better than Buddy. Better than Ordonez. Better than anyone.
Signing him would be Step 1 towards getting back the trust from your fan base. It is an important first step for Sandy Alderson.