DALLAS (CBSNewYork/AP) — For Miami, the winter meetings are set to open with a bang.
For Mets fans, a bust. New York’s All-Star shortstop and face of the franchise, Jose Reyes, is speeding down I-95 to the suddenly splurging Marlins.
Reyes became the second top free agent to land with the Marlins in a matter of days, agreeing Sunday night to a $106 million, six-year contract, according to multiple reports.
After adding All-Star closer Heath Bell for $27 million over three years, the Marlins gave the NL batting champion a deal that reportedly includes a club option for 2018 that would make the contract worth $120 million.
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The contract does not include a no-trade clause, according to WFAN’s Jon Heyman.
Reyes is following Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran out of New York, leaving David Wright and Johan Santana as the Mets’ last remaining stars. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson began hearing rumors of the deal Sunday afternoon.
“If the numbers are what are speculated and Jose does leave us, I don’t think people will be surprised that under those circumstances he went elsewhere. It doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it,” said Alderson, who spoke with Reyes’ agents earlier in the day. “There was an indication to me that things were moving. Exactly how far. I didn’t ask. I didn’t need to.”
Reyes’ departure is another blow to the Mets, who went 77-85 in their third straight losing season. Attendance at Citi Field dropped to 2.35 million, down about 7 percent from last year and their lowest since 2004, when they played at Shea Stadium.
Alderson said the Mets never made an official offer to Reyes, who is coming off a deal that paid him $32.4 million over five years.
“I don’t believe Mets’ fans will be surprised if these reports are true that Jose may not be back,” he said. “You have to draw a line somewhere and based on our experience, not just with Jose — but with multiyear contracts generally, and not just with our multiyear contracts, but all multiyear contracts generally — we decided that there were some conceptual limitations to where we would go.”
Reyes signed with New York at age 16 and last year become the Mets’ first NL batting champion, when he hit .337 and topped the league with 16 triples, while stealing 39 bases.
The 28-year-old is a four-time All-Star and three-time stolen base champion. But he has been prone to injuries in recent seasons, particularly to his hamstrings. He has not played more than 133 games in any of the last three years, averaging 98.
Alderson became general manager when Omar Minaya was fired after the 2010 season. The Wilpon family that owns the Mets has been sued by the trustee trying to recover money for the victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, and he is seeking to recover up to $386 million from the Mets’ ownership group.
“Bernie Madoff and his specter are always referenced in these situations. I really don’t really think that Madoff has that much to do with this,” Alderson said. “But when a team loses $70 million, irrespective of Bernie Madoff or anyone else, that’s probably a bigger factor in our approach to this season and the next couple than anything else.”
Alderson wouldn’t say whether the $70 million figure was for 2011 only.
“Big losses, let’s put it that way,” he said.
With Reyes gone, Ruben Tejada becomes the Mets’ projected starting shortstop.
“We don’t expect him to be Jose Reyes,” Alderson said. “At some point, he will be what he can be as a player.”
In a matter-of-fact 20-minute briefing, Alderson didn’t concede the 2012 season would be a loss and maintained the departure wouldn’t lead to a total rebuilding.
“I don’t think anything that Jose does or doesn’t do over the next few days has any impact on David Wright,” Alderson said. “Right now, we don’t contemplate trading David Wright.”
Preparing to move into a $515 million retractable-roof ballpark, the Marlins hired Ozzie Guillen as their manager and have become a driving force in the market ahead of the winter meetings, which start Monday. With Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols the remaining high-profile hitters on the market, they hope to land another big bat. Pujols, like Reyes, already has toured the new stadium — which opens when the Marlins host the Cardinals on April 4.
His arrival in Miami, where the Marlins will be wearing new brightly colored uniforms, likely means three-time All-Star Hanley Ramirez will be shifting from shortstop to third base.
Reyes received the second-nine figure deal of the offseason, following center fielder Matt Kemp’s $160 million, eight-year contract to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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