When the New York Mets’ list of players currently on the disabled list begins to trickle back to active duty, there will be a roster crunch that will finally give a large faction of Mets fans what they have been demanding in Jose Reyes being designated for assignment.
It is difficult to dispute the decision, if (when) it is made.
There is a catch-22 for Reyes and the club. He will not gain any consistency at the plate unless he plays regularly; there is nowhere for him to play regularly; nor has he given the club reason to find him at-bats. For players like Reyes – former All-Stars who have been the best player on their respective teams for essentially their entire lives – it is a difficult transition to adjust to a backup role and not know when or if they will get an opportunity to play. Some have adapted to it and some haven’t. In Mets history, two players who did so and did so well were Rusty Staub and Lee Mazzilli. Reyes has not. If he was hitting or retained the speed that made him such a dangerous weapon earlier in his career, then the Mets could swallow his shaky defense in exchange for expediency and what he does do.
He’s not, he hasn’t and the Mets can’t.
The .145/.203/.203 slash is bad enough. What is worse, however, is how overmatched he has looked at the plate. With the flamethrowers that every team trots out one after the other, Reyes’s lack of bat speed and that he will not get the playing time to get his timing down makes it cannibalistic for player and team.
Vulnerable to sentiment, the Wilpons have allowed affection, affinity and outside voices to influence how they operate. In some cases, there was a baseball-related explanation for rehiring Omar Minaya to serve as an assistant to general manager Sandy Alderson to shore up what has been an objective problem with the organization: the lack of minor-league talent. In others, the club doled out severance contracts to the likes of John Franco and Al Leiter when they were well past their sell-by date and the club should have cut ties with them two years earlier than it did. They blocked Alderson from firing Terry Collins when he wanted to make a change. And they have haphazardly jumped from one organizational philosophy to another without a full commitment to any specific one so they can have the option of going in another direction if immediate dividends are not paid or they are too harshly criticized.
If personal affection is seeping into cold business decisions and they are reluctant to part ways with Reyes due to some semblance of sympathy, the Mets can look at the circumstances under which Reyes departed as a free agent after the 2011 season to give them solace to do what must be done.
He wanted to stay with the Mets. There’s no doubt about that. But he also wanted his $100 million contract. In the dueling loyalties between finances and emotions, 99.9 percent of the time, finances win. Had his heart been so set on remaining with the Mets, at some point in 2011, he could have gone to Alderson or straight to the Wilpons and said, “Look, I really don’t wanna leave. Let’s work something out.”
He knew the club’s finances were a mess. Taking the step to sign for $75 million or whatever the sides hammered out would have prevented the nomadic travels to Miami, Toronto and Colorado before ending up back with the Mets when the Mets gave him a chance no other club was prepared to give him after his domestic incident with his wife. Framed in the business sense, the Mets have every right to cut ties with a player who is providing no benefit.
The roster and club needs provides a greater motivation to make the move. It’s ludicrous to believe that Jose Bautista will continue the hot start he’s enjoyed since joining the Mets, but he will certainly maintain the ability to walk, pose a power threat and an ability to play third base that Reyes does not have.
Eventually, the Mets will come to the inevitable conclusion that Reyes is ill-suited for this role; that if something happens to Amed Rosario, they will not be any worse if they shift Asdrubal Cabrera back to shortstop than they will be if they put Reyes out there; and that the expected July return of T.J. Rivera gives them another alternative whose place on the roster is more deserved than Reyes’s.
Once it is accepted that the minuscule reason for Reyes remaining on the roster is not worth the resistance to cutting him, then the DFA will come. With veterans of greater importance edging toward their return, the club will have no choice.