By Brad Kallet
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Picture this: It’s a hot, humid summer afternoon. The Mets, hanging onto a playoff spot — or perhaps just on the outside looking in — are beginning a 1:10 p.m. game at Citi Field. With the club desperately needing a win in the rubber game of the series, 45,000 antsy, intense, nervous fans take their seats in anticipation, ready to unleash.
The Mets take the field and the crowd instantly erupts as Jose Reyes, No. 7, strolls to third base in the top of the first inning. The four-time All-Star receives a standing ovation, tips his cap and chants of “Jose, Jose, Jose, Joseeeee” fill the Flushing air.
Amazingly, this particular scenario isn’t unfathomable, as the idea of a Reyes reunion is becoming less and less far-fetched by the day.
According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, general manager Sandy Alderson and his staff are having internal discussions about signing Reyes if and when the 33-year-old becomes a free agent in the coming days. He was designated for assignment by the Rockies last Wednesday and is expected to hit the open market shortly considering his contract makes him virtually untradeable.
Should Alderson bring Reyes back home? I believe he should, though not at the expense of adding Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gourriel or another, more dangerous player who is a better fit.
Soon after Reyes was demoted and the subsequent rumors about a potential return surfaced, many offered various reasons why New York should stay away from the infielder. Let’s address those issues one by one, and break down why they’re not really issues at all, but rather opportunities.
HE ISN’T THE PLAYER HE ONCE WAS
Of course he isn’t, but who on Earth expects him to be? When Reyes was a Met, he was arguably the most talented player in baseball, and almost unquestionably the most exciting. The Mets wouldn’t be getting the Reyes of his prime, and that’s OK. He wouldn’t be here to be a star.
It’s a low-risk, high-reward proposition. Reyes would play third base, replacing Flores, who likely will cool off sooner rather than later, or second, moving Neil Walker to third. He would also add depth to the bench. Aren’t you tired of seeing Matt Reynolds and Ty Kelly getting meaningful at-bats late in games? Me too. Reyes would take one of their spots.
And even though the former batting champion isn’t a top player anymore, he’s not exactly a scrub, either. People are conveniently forgetting that Reyes hit .274 with seven home runs, 53 RBIs, 25 doubles and 24 stolen bases in just 116 games last season.
Mets fans know how absurdly gifted Reyes is, and even if he’s a shell of his former self he can still make a significant impact at the plate and on the bases. He’s a dynamic leadoff hitter with terrific speed, and would fill two areas of weakness considering Curtis Granderson isn’t a traditional leadoff man and the Mets don’t run.
It’s also no secret that Reyes never wanted to leave the Mets, and his career hasn’t turned out the way many once thought ever since he signed with Miami in 2011. Maybe a return to New York, where he was beloved for a decade, would reignite him, make him feel reborn in that orange and blue uniform. Though at the end of his prime, it could be the start of a flourishing second act with the Mets.
The best part of all? He wouldn’t cost anything. No prospects to Colorado, and the Wilpons would merely pay him a prorated league-minimum salary.
Doesn’t work out? Cut him. No harm, no foul.
IT’S A STEP BACKWARD FOR THE ORGANIZATION
Nonsense. If you’re referring to the heartbreak of 2006 and the collapses of 2007 and 2008, those seasons are ancient history by now. The Mets exorcised those demons when they won the division last year and reached the World Series.
The only player from those teams who’s still on the roster is David Wright. Almost five years has passed since Reyes left New York for South Florida, and any ill will that the fans might feel toward the three-time stolen base leader — from laying a bunt down and taking himself out of the last game of the season to joining a division rival — has surely subsided by now.
And Reyes, who sparked the crowd like no other Met ever did, save for maybe Doc Gooden, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza, would bring some much-needed energy and excitement to a team that is sorely lacking. The Mets are flat and lifeless at the moment; the fans are, understandably, flat and lifeless as a result. Reyes, whether he’s playing brilliantly or poorly, would get the fans out of their seats. This team needs to be rejuvenated right now amidst the constant losing and continuous injuries, and the veteran infielder can absolutely help in that department.
HE’LL BRING THE FRANCHISE NEGATIVE PR
Reyes was arrested and charged with domestic violence this past offseason, and he has yet to play a game after serving a 52-game suspension under the league’s domestic-violence policy. Charges against him have since been dropped after his wife reportedly failed to cooperate with authorities.
If Reyes did in fact grab his wife by the throat and shove her, as he was accused of doing, it’s utterly despicable and disgusting. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, condone what he might have done. But the fact remains that baseball is a business, and it’s not the Mets’ responsibility to police other major league players based on their behavior. Right or wrong, Reyes served his suspension, and again — right or wrong — he’s a free man allowed to play baseball professionally. The league and law enforcement handled the situation, and now that the matter is essentially closed, every team should feel free to proceed without guilt.
The Mets will almost surely be on the receiving end of some criticism and controversy if they sign Reyes, and those who protested the acquisition would have every right to do so. More power to them. But as we saw with Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees, these matters move into the rearview mirror rather quickly as the blazing-fast news cycle turns over each day. There would be boos — again, more power to the protesters — but they would be greatly overshadowed by cheers.
And from a business and financial perspective, Reyes would be a moneymaker. He would put butts in the seats and eyeballs on the screens, at least initially, and T-shirts and jerseys would fly off the rack. Cha-ching.
And if the signing did turn out to be a public relations disaster, Alderson, as I mentioned above, could simply cut ties and move forward.
Reyes returning still appears to be a bit of a longshot, but at this point it wouldn’t come as a shock. The situation could be settled, either way, as early as this weekend.
He’s cheap, he’s revered and he can almost certainly still contribute on the field.
He’s worth taking a flyer on.
Brad Kallet is the managing editor of TENNIS.com and a frequent contributor to WFAN.com. Follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet