Mets Are Still Searching For A True Reyes Replacement

By Clayton Collier

It’s been two years and six days since the sparkplug of Flushing dashed for the warm beaches of South Beach, only to be sent packing north of the border just a season later. At the time, it was disheartening to see Jose Reyes go, though it was generally seen as the best move for the Mets not to try to outbid Miami’s six-year, $106 million offer. The rationale for the Mets’ decision to let their homegrown star sign within the division being that the then 28-year-old shortstop wouldn’t have been able to perform at an elite level over the life of the contract.

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I supported the decision not to bring Reyes back after the Marlins’ obscene offer, but as the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20. Looking at the current market and the cost it takes to acquire available shortstops via free agency or trade — it may have been best for Sandy Alderson and the Mets to retain Reyes.

With shortstop highlighted as one of the most pressing needs for the Mets this offseason, names such as Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta have headlined the available candidates. Drew remains on the open market, seeking a multi-year deal, while Peralta managed to sign a four-year, $53 million contract with St. Louis despite being limited to 107 games due to his suspension for involvement with Biogenesis. Peralta’s agreement, nevertheless, will keep him with the Cardinals through his age-35 season. Reyes will also potentially be entering the 2017 free agent class as a 35-year-old with four years remaining on his current deal with the Blue Jays.

Both Peralta and Reyes have played 11 seasons in the major leagues. Despite playing 80 fewer games in his career, Reyes holds the advantage with a career 33.3 WAR compared to Peralta’s 24.7. Reyes also has the highest career OPS+ (107) out of Peralta (101) or Drew (98). Not only are Reyes’ career numbers the most favorable, but in the past two seasons, he also has the upper hand over the two top free-agent shortstops of the winter, boasting a .780 OPS, ranking among the league leaders, while Peralta and Drew put up .744 and .730 figures respectively.

Now if the Mets had signed Reyes in the winter of 2011, one of or possibly both of the Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon signings from the past week probably don’t happen, and maybe David Wright doesn’t get the eight-year, $138 million extension he received last December. But if the market for an elite shortstop requires a contract into their mid-thirties, there are few other players in the game worthy of committing to than Reyes.

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Not only does he put up better offensive numbers than Peralta, Drew, or any other available free-agent shortstops, but he brings a positive presence to the clubhouse that no other player in the game can. Rather than messing around with the likes of Ruben Tejada, Omar Quintanilla and Ronny Cedeno over the past two years, the Mets could have had their homegrown shortstop, their leadoff hitter and their dynamic left side of the infield intact.

If it takes the same number of years to acquire an above-average shortstop, it would have behooved the Mets to hold onto the hometown favorite rather than kick the proverbial tires on lesser players such as Peralta and Drew. The Amazin’s wouldn’t have to contemplate trading away their highly coveted young talent to end the two-year search for Reyes’ replacement. And they wouldn’t have to go with the very likely scenario of starting Ruben Tejada at short on March 31, 2014.

Follow Clayton Collier on Twitter — @Clayton_Collier.   

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