Reyes: Time to move on.

There’s a lot of swirling issues around the Mets’ decision to bring back Jose Reyes, but it really comes down to one burning question: Can the Mets win with him?

Based on Reyes’ tenure with the team, the answer is no. That the Mets with Reyes are a better team is little doubt, but they are not a playoff caliber team as they are presently constructed. Nor are they a serious contender.  Even if the Mets decide to bring back Reyes, there are too many holes to consistently compete with Philadelphia and Atlanta in their division, and San Francisco and St Louis outside it.

We also know Washington and Florida will be more aggressive financially than the Mets.

And, that’s the short list. Nine National League teams and 18 teams overall had a better record this summer than the Mets. Will bringing back a frequently-injured player – who twice went on the DL last season – with a long-term, $100-plus million contract make the Mets substantially better?

No.

Rebuilding is a long, arduous process to which I don’t have all the answers. I do have the keys, however, and that is strong starting pitching and a bullpen, and defense. Those qualities, which the Mets’ don’t possess, will not be readily obtainable if a bulk of their resources are spent on a speed player with leg issues who will undoubtedly break down during his contract.

I like Reyes. He’s always been one of the more personable Mets to deal with, but that doesn’t make him the right answer, the right fit, at this time.

The trade value for Reyes was highest after the 2008 season, but that wasn’t going to happen because the Mets believed they would remain a contender with a few offseason tweaks. They had Johan Santana fall into their laps the previous winter, but after going through a second late-season collapse and a managerial firing, thought minor tinkering would be enough.

They were wrong.

The 2008 season was the last healthy, full-season for Reyes. It was the last winning season for the franchise, which believed its fortunes would turn in a potential gold mine in Citi Field.

However, there would soon be injuries to David Wright, Santana, Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado. The pitching collapsed as Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine didn’t develop as antiticpated. Hoped for lightning-in-the-bottle signings such as Pedro Martinez, Jason Bay, Orlando Hernandez and Shawn Green fizzled. There were other miserable signings in Perez, Luis Castillo, Moises Alou, Scott Schoeneweis and Guillermo Mota that made the Mets look foolish and desperate.

The Mets made one GM firing and two managerial firings since Beltran took that called third strike in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals, who are playing in their third World Series since 2004.

The window slammed shut on the Mets and Reyes.

What we remember and cherish about Reyes was his unabashed enthusiasm and running as an unbridled colt from 2005-08, but he’s three years removed from being that player because of injuries.

Reyes’ stolen bases have steadily declined, and he wasn’t even a threat to steal after his second stint on the disabled list. Reyes wasn’t the same player, and with the competitive part of the season dwindling away, he didn’t run as to risk injury which could have cost him his precious batting title and money in free agency.

That he removed himself from his last game isn’t enough to cut ties with him, but it is enough to get an accurate glimpse of his priorities. Lots of players turn it on in their walk years, and that’s the lasting impression Reyes left us.

His injuries contributed to the fall, but wasn’t the main reason the team fell to its depths of mediocrity and helplessness the past three years.

The main reason was, and remains, its inadequate starting pitching. There are no assurances of a healthy return from Santana or Pelfrey improving, and all five spots in the rotation have significant questions attached, as do the six or seven spots in the bullpen.

Clearly, what Mets pitcher isn’t without a concern, either physically or performance wise?

Wright has been in decline since the Matt Cain beaning, Bay never produced, and Ike Davis missed more than half the season with an ankle injury. That puts questions at third, in left, and at first. Lucas Duda will be getting a chance to play his first full season in right, Angel Pagan regressed in center, and who will play second if Ruben Tejada takes over shortstop?

Where can you look on the field to find solace and comfort, knowing that position is in good hands?

Reyes is only one player, and not a healthy one at that.

To those who suggest the Mets might be even worse without Reyes, you are probably correct. But, we all know the Mets’ house-of-cards finances will preclude them immediately getting better in the free-agent market. And, don’t forget, with or without Reyes, the payroll is to be slashed by up to $30 million.

We also know what passes for pitching in the free-agent market are mostly mediocre back of the rotation answers and there is little help from the minor league system.

Record-wise, the Mets are roughly in the bottom third with few immediate answers. With or without Reyes, that’s where they are, and their only hope of moving up is to use the money earmarked for Reyes and attempt to plug holes.

Because, if that myriad of holes remains empty, so too will be the seats at Citi Field. At one time, Reyes represented the future of the Mets. Now, there’s no future with him.

 

13 thoughts on “Reyes: Time to move on.

  1. Great, honest article. I completely agree. One small addition. We need to add power, home run threats to the lacking defense, starting and relief pitching.

  2. I understand the rationale for letting Reyes go by not going crazy with the years and money. I was wondering if a position switch would protect his hamstrings but can you take the chance of doing it after signing him to a long term contract. I always thought that switching Hojo to center 20 years ago messed with his head.

    But it hurts that this team can not develop and keep guys their whole career like that team in the Bronx. In the last 50 years they can develop and keep Mattingly, White, Williams, Guidry, Munson, and quite probably Jeter, Posada and Rivera. Who do we have? Kranepool and probably Ron Hodges. For pitchers, who? Randy Tate maybe.

  3. That was a pretty disheartening article. The future is not as bleak as you say. At least one starter has answered the questions and thats Dickey who pitched much better than his record showed. Santana Has not relied on a plus fastball for some years and could still be very good. Niese has promise and then there are the young guns in the minors we all are salivating over.

  4. As for Reyes, I am ready to say goodbye and have been for awhile. I am glad his hammys went out again this year. Mets would have been cornered to offer him a huge contract that they would surely have regretted. Let someone else take the risk. Next year will be about testing the young players and moving closer to getting rid of the dead wood with an eye to returning to contention in 2013.

  5. Great article John.

    You very clearly lay out the risks with the team in 2012.

    We need pitching first. Our best pitcher is Dickey. A knuckleball pitcher who did not have a 500 winning percentage.

    We have to wait for our 4 horsemen to mature and hopefully 2 of them will be able to help us in about 2 years.

    We have no closer. We have a weak pen mostly due to overuse.

    As you say one player will not make us better.

    We have to face the facts that this team will not be in the post season next year. We need to rebuild and look to the future. Perhaps Jose can be a part of that, but most likely we will have to lock up a large part of the payroll on a player who will be past his prime by the time the rest of the team is ready. A player who has always been injured.

    For the future of this team we need to take the medicine. We cannot be fooled like we have in the past 5 years that we can do it. That we have to believe. It sounds nice, but the reality is this team cannot compete. We will compete with Washington and the Marlins, but not with Philly.

  6. Clancee (1): Thanks for dropping by and your kind words. I hope you’ll come back often, You’re right about needing a home run threat. Hopefully, David Wright will regain that stroke. I am optimistic about Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, but realize they aren’t givens.-JD

  7. Dan (2): Excellent point and another separation between the two teams. To be fair, George Steinbrenner did try to deal Bernie Williams and almost chased Don Mattingly out of town. Home grown talent is always the best way to go and at one time David Wright and Jose Reyes represented that core. Unfortunately, the team fell apart around them.-JD

  8. Ray (3): Nice to hear from you again. I thought you might have disappeared. Would have hated that after all these years. Dickey did have a stronger second half, but let’s be realistic, he’s been a journeyman throughout his career and is a fourth or fifth starter at best. … I am optimistic about the young pitching in the minors, but they are still at least two years away.-JD

  9. Ray (4): Sometimes you have to cut ties before a team can take a step forward. It would be great if the best laid plans materialized and the Mets were able to build a core around Reyes/Wright, but things haven’t worked out that way. The road will be hard without Reyes, but it’s the only way progress can be made.-JD

  10. dave (5): As the song goes, “the waiting is the hardest part.” There are things to be optimistic about, but collectively there’s a way to go if the Mets really want to do this right. The team has tried so many quick fixes that never panned out. The medicine will be bitter, but it has the best chance of making them well.-JD

  11. 9. Delcos, I havent been around because there hasnt been much to talk about the second half of the season. Hot stove discussion will keep me more interested.
    Dickey is not an ace, but on a good team he would be very useful. I would lock him up for 2 more years on an extension right now.