When David Murphy’s fly ball nestled into Allen Craig’s glove last night to end one of the most compelling World Series in history, the partying was ratcheted up a notch in St. Louis, but the Hot Stove Season began everywhere else.
Over the next five days, the Mets hold an exclusive negotiating window with their free agents: Jose Reyes, Chris Capuano, Scott Hairston, Chris Young, Miguel Batista, Jason Isringhausen and Dale Thayer.
Of the group, the most likely to return is Capuano, who should be a priority because of the Mets’ thin rotation. The others are interchangeable among the 200 or so free agents that will hit the market.
Reyes, of course, is the one drawing the most interest here, but the Mets won’t complete a deal in this window as the shortstop is determined to test the market and history tells us this won’t get done until December after the Winter Meetings.
At the end of the season I posted the Mets’ ceiling for Reyes should be four years at no more than $20 million a season, and I see no reason to back off that sentiment. I’d actually go lower, say $17 million.
According to all reports, Reyes seems, hell bent on over $100 million with at least six years. If he thinks that, he’s either naïve, overestimating his value or getting bad advise.
Perhaps … all three.
If the Mets go higher to placate their continually disappointed fan base, two things would happen: 1) they will be making a mistake, and 2) that fan base will only be further disappointed.
I see pictures in the papers and sound bites on TV of young kids with placards pleading for the Mets to return Reyes. You don’t make $100-million decisions just to please kids.
The Mets are in a crucial time in their checkered history with ownership not on firm financial footing. This decision could impact them for years, if not a decade.
From 2005-2008, Reyes played in over 150 games a season, was a dynamic player – yet with several offensive deficiencies and a history of mental lapses – and was rewarded with a multi-year contract when the Mets didn’t have to go that route.
However, times change, and since 2008 the Mets have not had a winning season. Reyes has been consistently injured and the team has unraveled. Their playoff window slammed shut and it must be remembered they lost with Reyes and can just as easily lose without him.
There’s no disputing the Mets are better with him, but even so, they are still a sub .500 team with a myriad of holes.
Reyes is a speed player who makes his living with his legs, but those legs betrayed him over the past three years. He might be 28, but his legs are older and breakdowns are almost assured. He went on the disabled list twice this season.
Maybe his body type is wound too tight. Maybe he has a medical condition that makes him prone to muscle pulls. Maybe he doesn’t warm up enough. Maybe it is a combination of all three.
Once he was stealing over 50 bases a season. Now it is barely 30, and he attempted to steal only a handful of times after coming off the disabled list a second time.
There will undoubtedly be a team out there that will throw a lavish contract at Reyes, but the Mets shouldn’t follow suit.
There have been reports – not confirmed by the team – that the Mets were willing to go over $100 million. If accurate, Reyes should have jumped on it, but was supposedly concerned about the direction of the team.
The Mets overachieved much of the season and played close to .500, but their pitching regressed in the second half, the bullpen performed poorly, injuries started to mount and they limped into winter with another losing campaign and a grocery list of concerns.
Where are the Mets headed?
There are glimpses of promise, but also gloom. With the team stating it will cut payroll, the Mets are in more a rebuilding phase than they initially let on when they hired Sandy Alderson as general manager.
The Mets won’t re-sign Reyes during their exclusive negotiating window, but should make one thing clear to him: whatever they offer this coming week, they should stress it is close to their best proposal and are willing to move on without him.
If the Mets go longer than four years, Reyes will break down eventually. He’s liable to do so regardless. They can’t afford to let negotiations with him highjack their off-season and keep them from addressing the problems of this team.