By Rich Coutinho
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It has been a very turbulent 12 months for the Wilpons. They’ve dealt with managerial changes, pending lawsuits and an air of negativity throughout their fan base. There has also been wild speculation that Sandy Alderson will be in full seller mode come July with K-Rod, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes being offered around to provide salary relief and prospects for the future. And if the team is struggling, it might be prudent to pursue that route with some high-priced veteran players.

But the issue here is Jose Reyes is not a veteran player–he is still a young shortstop who just 2 seasons ago was perceived to be part of the solution–not part of the problem. I will admit the last 2 seasons have been disappointing and has forced many to question his durability but that has made us forget one very important thing–Reyes is a game changer and when he plays, or more precisely when he scores a run, the Mets generally win.

It is very obvious in the early going this season, Reyes is healthy and is treating Citi Field like his own personal triple machine. Defensively, he is flashing both the leather and arm that few shortstops in the league possess. Playing behind a staff that generally pitches to contact makes Jose even more valuable. So what is the problem–why wouldn’t the Mets sign a twenty-something homegrown shortstop who is a legitimate 5 tool player? Many suggest it is because of team finances. That may indeed be the case, but my feeling is THIS is the player you allocate the dollars to even at the expense of other high ticket items.

The experts have also theorized that Reyes will want Carl Crawford-type money which will price him out of the team’s budget constraints.  I have talked to Reyes about that and although we have not gotten into dollar specifics, I get the sense he loves living in New York and playing alongside Wright and would be willing to be reasonable if the Mets would do the same. It certainly makes sense, at this point, for both parties to wait, but if Reyes is having a big year, I wouldn’t wait too long.

But I don’t want you to take my word for it–I asked opposing players what Jose Reyes does in a game.  “You just have to keep him off the bases–if you don’t, everyone in their lineup becomes a better hitter,” said Ryan Howard last week in Philly.

Want more evidence?– “In that first inning of a game you just pray you get him out, because if you don’t you might be climbing uphill all night,” said Chipper Jones when I talked to him about Reyes in spring training. Those are two pretty good testimonials from two great players, but there might be one more item to consider.

Perish the thought–if he became available this off-season, the Yankees might strongly consider signing Reyes and moving an aging Derek Jeter to another position. That is a nightmare situation Sandy Alderson simply can not let happen. Losing Jose Reyes to the Bronx might be too much even for the most loyal Met fan to take.

Should the Mets keep Reyes at any cost? Weigh in below…