By Rich Coutinho
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All throughout the summer and for most of the off-season I have been telling you the same thing about Jose Reyes: Sandy Alderson and Reyes’ representatives have a gentleman’s agreement that once he receives all of his offers, the Mets will be given a chance to talk to him about a long-term contract.

Now, you may say why would both parties agree to this and more importantly, stick to this? All I can say is that both Alderson and Jose Reyes are men to be trusted — their body of work has proven that. Now, don’t get me wrong — the Mets will get no home team discount from Reyes and Sandy will have to work within the parameters of his budget but if you read between the lines here, you can readily see both sides want to leave the door open.

Now I know that is not the popular view because it has become fashionable to throw dirt on the Mets, say they have no future, they have no money, and they will be a doormat for years to come. People cast aspersions on a $110 million payroll which is where they will be in 2012, but I say that is enough to improve the team, sign Reyes, sign a closer and refurbish the pen. And looking at the numbers, it can be done. The chief competition for Jose Reyes seems to be the Marlins (I still think the Nationals might enter this race) and to me, they are the organization playing games here.

They have leaked info to anyone who will listen they are interested in every free agent — Pujols, Reyes, Madson, and Bell. They leak this information on the eve of a push for fans to buy season tickets and none of the leaks are specific enough to know what they offered.

I saw one report that said they offered Reyes a contract somewhere between 40 and 80 million dollars — what I we supposed to do with that info? Thats a $40 million swing either way. And if you think no other team has met with Reyes just because it has not been leaked — think again. If a team is genuinely interested in Reyes, chances are they will keep those conversations to themselves. The fact that NO OTHER team’s interest in Reyes has appeared should tell you a lot — either it is a two team race or there are some mystery team(s) out there.

Let us assume for a minute it is a two team race and lets assume the Marlins are lifting their payroll from $57M to $90M (I heard it could go up as much as $30m). They have $45M committed on the books to Hanley, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Nolasco among others. They have 10 arbitration eligible players including Anibal Sanchez who will cost dollars and closer Leo Nunez who even if they non-tender they’ll need to replace with high ticket items.  Before you dismiss these two players, ask yourself what a starting pitcher might command coming off a season in which he spun a 3.67 ERA with 202 K’S in 196 innings while giving up less than a hit an inning. Or a closer who saved 36 games. No matter what you think about these two guys, they will command the dollars that people with comparable stats have and that will be costly. Even if the Marlins walk away from these two, they’ll need to replace them and that will cost them.

They will also need to decide on guys like Coghlan, Mujica, and Bonafacio whom the organization likes a lot. So lets assume they give Sanchez or a replacement  $10M and their closer $10m and spend another $10M to fill out their rotation and the rest of their 25 man roster. That takes them to $75 million. That leaves $15 million in their budget and that is not enough for Reyes. Now, they could trade Hanley Ramirez but that kind of defeats the purpose of adding Reyes since they wanted both of those bats in the lineup. And this assuming, The Marlins increase their payroll by $33M which I still think is overstating things. When you lay out the numbers, it does not make sense for the Marlins. As I said, if they trade Hanley it could change the equation. Otherwise, they will have to live north of a $100 million payroll and I just can not believe that.

So, that takes us back to the Mets who have not made an offer yet but know how important Reyes is to the team and the fans. They also know it would be foolish to bid against themselves if the Marlins are merely playing footsie here with Reyes. And most importantly they know they get “last time at bat” in this process. But you would never know that on the way this is being reported. The only thing that has accomplished is create the smokescreen the Marlins want to spike their ticket sales and at the same time, let the media continue to pile on the Mets. I’ve tried to give you some facts to gnaw on even though we’ve learned in NY, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

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