Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
Back when Jose Reyes was an All-Star, the New York Mets didn’t even offer him a contract. Now that he’s absolutely not an All-Star, the Mets want him back.
The crazy part about all that is the Mets were right then and they’re also right now.
They avoided disaster when they didn’t try to counter the six-year, $106 million contract offer Reyes eventually signed with the Miami Marlins back in December 2011. And Reyes might just help them avoid disaster by signing a no-risk deal with them Saturday, as multiple reports Friday night (including this one from Anthony DiComo of MLB.com) said he likely will.
Because the Colorado Rockies released Reyes in the fifth year of that six-year deal he signed with the Marlins, the Rox remain responsible for paying him the bulk of the $40-plus million he has coming. The Mets would pay just the prorated major league minimum, and they only pay that for as long as Reyes remains on their big league roster.
Given that someone has to take that roster spot for at least the big league minimum, Reyes costs the Mets nothing. Given the struggle the Mets have had finding major league-caliber players to fill out their bench, he doesn’t block anyone of importance, either.
He doesn’t keep them from signing Yulieski Gourriel, if the Mets can find a way to get the Cuban free agent. He doesn’t take at-bats away from Asdrubal Cabrera, except when he gives manager Terry Collins a chance to give his starting shortstop a needed break.
Matt York/Associated Press/Associated Press
The Rockies let Reyes work out and play in the minor leagues, but they had no interest in having him with their big league team this season.
As Collins made clear to reporters, including Fred Kerber of the New York Post, the plan would be to play Reyes a little bit of everywhere—around the infield and perhaps even in the outfield. The idea would be to find out if he can provide a boost to a Mets team that has little speed and has struggled to score runs with anything but home runs.
To find out if he can do that, the Mets would first send Reyes to the minor leagues. He hasn’t played anywhere but shortstop in more than a decade and has never played anywhere but middle infield as a professional. He’d need a few games to get ready.
With any other team in any other situation, Reyes might mope if presented with all that. The difference here is he never wanted to leave the Mets and always wanted to return. He never gave up his house on Long Island.
Besides, it’s not like other teams have been lining up to give him a chance. Between his greatly diminished abilities on the field and his problems off it, Reyes’ value dropped to near zero this season.
The Rockies didn’t want him when his domestic violence suspension ended on June 1. They obviously couldn’t find any team to take on even a small part of his salary in a trade, or they wouldn’t have released him.
Back when baseball announced Reyes’ suspension in the middle of May, I wrote about how little value he had and wondered if any team would take him. Back then, it didn’t seem the Mets would want or need him.
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Reyes looked happy with the Marlins, but the truth is he never wanted to leave the Mets.
The domestic violence incident was part of it, to be sure, but only a part. Aroldis Chapman served a domestic violence suspension, too, and not only is he closing without controversy for the New York Yankees, but plenty of other teams want to trade for him in July or sign him as a free agent this winter as well.
As for Reyes, things have changed since last month, more for the Mets than for him. Reyes’ old buddy David Wright had neck surgery and may not play again this season. The Mets have fallen behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East, although a Mets win and a Nationals loss Friday cut the deficit to three games.
Already, the Mets have added James Loney (who had a big night in Friday’s win in Atlanta) and Kelly Johnson. Even with that, it was just five days ago that a frustrated Collins told reporters “we may shake some things up.”
Since then, the Mets have won three of four, but they’ve also watched their best hitter (Yoenis Cespedes) deal with a wrist problem and an ankle problem and their best pitcher (Noah Syndergaard) go off to get his elbow examined. Another rotation staple, Steven Matz, has admitted to elbow tightness after each of his last two starts.
All those guys mean more to the Mets’ chances of going back to the playoffs than Reyes does. But that doesn’t mean he can’t help.
I’m not sure he can. No one can be sure of that.
But now that he costs a lot closer to $100,000 than to $100 million, Reyes is worth a shot.
Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.
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