The mere mention of that name invokes all sorts of opinions, emotions and sometimes even arguments. He has been the subject of intense media pressure all season, and for most of his career. However, the word "intense" is about to be redefined once the regular season is over and the focus shifts from the field, to the Mets' biggest off season decision.
I will say that I am glad that I am not Sandy Alderson in this particular instance. He really can't win in this scenario. If Sandy spends the cash to keep Jose, folks will complain that it was money poorly spent and that Jose is fragile, etc. If Jose is allowed to leave via free agency, then Sandy will be criticized for letting a talented, home grown Met, leave town in his prime.
The point of this exercise is to look at the situation from a baseball/business sense, and not emotionally (which is hard to do as a fan). I think Sandy is level headed and he will take a cold and calculated approach to this issue. Individual emotions, potential fan backlash and the unrelenting media coverage will NOT be a deciding factor (thankfully), which is a departure from the previous regime and is usually a more effective way to make decisions.
When you evaluate Jose Reyes, it is hard not to be impressed. He is an athletic freak! What is more fun then watching him rip a line drive into the gap, and leg out a stand up triple, with his hair flying everywhere? Or, watching him make a spectacular diving stop, topped only by the laser beam of a throw that only he can generate, that gets the opposing runner by a half step? Even his outward persona is fun to watch, the constant smiles, the handshakes, the dance moves, etc. All of this while leading off and playing a talent scarce position, successfully, in one of the toughest media markets in the country.
So, what's the delay? From that description, he deserves to be paid! Sandy needs to get his agent on the phone and give him "Crawford" money (much to Fred Wilpon's chagrin).
The point is, what I listed above can be considered Jose Reyes' "pros". I conveniently left out the "cons", as do most fans and the media when they like to discuss his future.
Jose is under thirty years old, which means he is in his athletic prime. However, Jose has also had an inordinate amount of injuries over the years, for a young player. Do you think that he will become more healthy as time goes by (say for the next seven years)? His injuries have mostly been to his legs, which are the keys to his success. Take his speed away and he becomes ordinary.
Despite his impressive year in 2011, which has included multiple trips to the DL, Jose still does not get on base as much as you would like for a leadoff hitter. Despite all of the time and energy spent on teaching him to be more pitch selective and to draw more walks, it is not happening. When he bats .330, no one seems to notice his impatience at the plate. When his batting average is more in line with career averages, then his on base skills (or lack thereof) are more apparent. You cannot steal bases and score runs from the bench, right?
Looking at his defense, Jose is widely considered "top shelf". He makes spectacular plays and he has a cannon for an arm. But, if you look at some of the more commonly used defensive metrics, he is not "top shelf". He is usually around the middle of the pack, or slightly above above average when analyzing range and overall defensive impact.
The biggest con is his health. I hinted at that a paragraph or two, ago. As wonderful a player as he CAN be at times, his overall impact is inconsistent due to multiple injuries and streaky play.
So, forget the phone call Sandy! Fred was right! Lock the clubhouse doors and keep Jose out of NY.
OK, so that overreaction is just as silly as the first one I listed.
The truth, as with most issues, is somewhere in the middle.
Sandy has been painted as a "Moneyball" disciple and that may be partially accurate. I think Sandy is a master at analyzing a situation and trying to get the most value out of the transaction (like the Beltran trade). That is the key from the "Moneyball" philosophy, in my humble opinion.
When you consider Jose Reyes, you have to look ahead at what he will provide as a player, going forward. You CANNOT look back and tie his current and future value to what he DID in the past.
I think Jose will continue to be a dominant offensive player going forward. That will last as long as his health and age allow him to use his speed to his advantage. With that said, Jose will also continue to get injured from time to time. It, unfortunately, is his track record and those sorts of injuries (muscle pulls, strains) will only occur more frequently as he ages.
With injuries and diminishing athletic ability, his impact has a shelf life. It is Sandy's job to figure that out and make an appropriate offer.
Normally, a player in this scenario cannot provide value equal to his contract. Some team is probably going to offer Jose Reyes "Crawford" money (sorry Fred), or close to it. The 2011 version (first half of the season to be more precise) of Jose Reyes is probably worth that kind of money, but that is simply not sustainable. For all of the reasons listed here, I am confident when I say that he will not continue to play that way (just look at his play since the All Star Break).
But, he brings a lot of other things to the table. Jose leads off, plays a difficult position, in a difficult city and by all accounts is a pretty good teammate.
His value is further tied to a phenomenon called "position scarcity". That means that Jose provides a lot of value when compared to the league average for his position. Think of the Mike Piazza days. How many catchers could do what he did? It was a huge advantage and Jose provides a similar advantage among short stops.
So lets wrap all of this up into one nice package. What does Sandy do?
If I were Sandy, and this is not an easy decision, I think you have to make an offer. Not that I agree with Fred, but I don't think the Mets offer a "Crawford" type contract (look at how that is working out for Boston so far).
The Mets have a checkered past when it comes to long term, expensive contracts for players. Actually, most teams do and more often then not, they do not work out in the long haul (think Bobby Bonilla, for example).
OK, offer Jose a four year deal at around sixty million dollars (fifteen million per year). That is a nice offer and it will cover Jose's age twenty-eight through age thirty-one seasons. I think it is reasonable that he can contribute positive value for that term and you are not locked into a massive six, seven or eight year contract. Heck, you can even add a team option or two on the end based on performance and health clauses.
Jose gets more financial security, he stays in a city and with a team he is comfortable with and he still gets one more crack at free agency in his early thirties, providing that he proves he can stay healthy.
Any more then that and you walk away. It will hurt to see Jose leave, if he does. But you can't handicap the future with another large, long-term contract that will be an albatross by the middle and end of the terms.
The upside will be two first round draft picks (he is a Type A free agent) and playing time for one of our youngsters (Reuben Tejada, Jordany Valdespin) who may be an impact player waiting to happen.
My gut feeling is that the Mets do make an offer like the one above, but another team (Angels) with more money then sense offers Jose a "Crawford" deal and he leaves New York.
Either way, it will be interesting to watch the story play itself out. I know I am much more confident with Sandy making the decision(s).
What do you think?