With each missed game due to the unpredictability (or predictability depending on where you sit) of Jose Reyes‘s hamstring, the Mets decision on whether or not to go all-out to keep the shortstop or let him leave becomes easier.
Reyes exited Sunday’s game against the Braves with “tightness” in his left hamstring; the same hamstring that sent him to the disabled list in early July. He was scheduled for an MRI on Sunday evening.
The comparisons of Reyes to Carl Crawford has become a regular part of baseball vernacular. Reyes was set to sift through offers of “Carl Crawford money” meaning a contract that equals or surpasses the 7-year, $142 million Crawford received from the Red Sox.
Early in the season, when Reyes was the talk of baseball with his all-around play and boundless energy, that end looked inevitable.
Then he strained his hamstring and the questions started up again.
That was a month ago.
He’s hurt with some permutation of the same injury. The bane to his existence and obstruction to maximizing his potential has always been his troublesome hamstrings. No amount of bolstering of the true but someone inaccurate statements of his consistent health can eliminate that perception that he’s always one step away from going back on the disabled list for an extended period because of his penchant for hamstring woes that have sabotaged several seasons of his career.
Before that fateful day in July, the speculated dollar amounts were rising exponentially. Scott Boras was hotly pursuing Reyes as a client and was undoubtedly promising to get him more money than Crawford got. After the Jayson Werth contract, it’s foolish to doubt the ability of Boras to achieve that end. Reyes chose to stay with his current representatives.
Reyes was limited in his suitors before the injury. The two biggest financial juggernauts—the Yankees and Red Sox—are not going to be pursuing him. The Giants aren’t going to have the money to throw $140 million+ at Reyes; the Angels, Nationals and Tigers have the money; and if things break strangely perhaps the Cardinals and Dodgers could jump in.
And how does Crawford fit into this equation?
Inadvertently, Carl Crawford and the Red Sox set the market for Jose Reyes when the somewhat surprising (post-Werth) deal came down. The Angels thought they had a competitive offer for Crawford of over $100 million, but were blown away by the Red Sox decisive maneuver to get him.
Crawford and Reyes are basically the same players. Crawford has been remarkably durable in his career and his disabled list stays haven’t been because of his legs. Crawford has more power; Reyes plays a more demanding and difficult-to-fill position, but they’re eerily close in what they do—stolen bases; some pop; lots of triples; wreaking havoc on the basepaths.
Crawford’s been a borderline disaster with the Red Sox in 2011.
Reyes was well on the way to surpassing “Crawford money” in his foray into free agency—someone was going to pay him. Now will there be that one dumb owner who ignores the warning signs and throws that $142 million+ at Reyes hoping that he’ll stay on the field?
What will the Mets do?
Reyes, like Crawford, is not a “speed only” player like Vince Coleman was; a player who, once that speed is gone, doesn’t do much of anything. He’ll always have that arm; he switch hits; has that pop to hit 10-15 homers a year; and will produce without the stolen bases. But produce to the tune of $142 million+?
It’s a tough question.
GM Sandy Alderson is not the type to overpay for a player when his club has numerous other holes to fill and is still in financial limbo. Things have settled down with the Mets after forecasts of bankruptcy, an MLB takeover and imminent collapse; but they’re still unclear. They’ve extricated themselves from the circling vulture of Francisco Rodriguez‘s $17.5 million contract option and have played well enough on the field and been respectable enough off the field so they’re no longer a last resort for prospective free agents.
Will Alderson want to allocate a vast chunk of club payroll on Reyes when that money could be used to find 4-5 players who would be less of a gamble and would fill in pieces of the puzzle while not being the superstar individual? When they’re going to get two draft picks as compensation for Reyes?
Reyes’s injuries have provided a sense of freedom for the front office to do what they think is right sans the pressure of fan/media reaction and the fallout for letting Reyes leave. They can frame this any way they choose and get away with it with a negligible response in the news cycle. The firestorm will be brief and lamenting that he’s gone, but understood.
Believe me when I tell you that Alderson and his deputies have a contingency plan in place without Reyes. It may not be as exciting, but it could be as good or better.
To justify Reyes’s departure, all they have to do is point to his history, the hamstring tweaks and subtly explain why they chose this course of action. They’ll make him a lucrative offer to remain a Met. But if someone trumps it, the Mets can shrug and move on. It might even be better in the long term. No one will blame them anymore.