All Mets fans are hoping the club brings back Jose Reyes for 2012 and the rest of his career. At the same time no one should feel confident about the Mets re-signing their star shortstop. While the Mets have some money to spend this offseason, even with the well-publicized reports of a payroll significantly lower than the 2011 version, they do not have a blank checkbook.
How high and how long will Sandy Alderson be willing to go to re-up Reyes? My opinion is that the salary will be more of a sticking point than the length of the deal. While the Mets would prefer a four or five-year deal, if Reyes stands firm on a six-year deal, I see the Mets accepting those terms. But I don’t see six years (or even four) at $20 million.
Reyes might give a slight home-team discount to the Mets if they are willing to go long term. It seems that a six-year, $100 million deal might work for both sides. Reyes made $11 million this past year, and would get a roughly $6 million raise under those terms. Plus it would more than double the amount that rival shortstop Jimmy Rollins got from the Phillies. Rollins signed a five-year deal with an option and ended up making $46.5 million over the last six seasons with Philadelphia.
However, it’s all well and good to speculate about Reyes giving a home team discount but if some team comes up with sacks of money no one should blame Reyes for refusing to leave $25 million or more on the table. Few ever imagined that Jayson Werth would command $126 million last year but that’s exactly what happened.
The bottom line is that Reyes will be one of the most attractive free agents out there and the Mets could easily get outbid.
Then the question becomes: Where do the Mets spend the money they had earmarked for Reyes on instead? The immediate reaction is pitching but there are no Cliff Lee types on the market this year, unless C.C. Sabathia opts out of his deal. The top pitcher likely to be available is C.J. Wilson. Wilson has been very good the past two seasons but do the Mets want to invest a lot of money in another LHP when they already have Johan Santana and Jonathon Niese penciled in the 2012 rotation?
It seems unlikely to me that Alderson would sink a ton of money into the free agent market for starting pitching. Center field and catcher are the next two obvious choices for the Mets to spend money. But there’s no catcher worthy of a big-money deal and the best CF option is probably Coco Crisp But the soon to be 32-year old did not have a good defensive season in 2011 and his 91 OPS+ was a shade beneath the 93 OPS+ mark turned in by Angel Pagan.
Checking the list of potential free agents compiled by Cot’s there’s just not a lot of names that jump out. There are some veteran starting pitchers – Mark Buehrle, Aaron Harang, Edwin Jackson – but do you really see Alderson giving $10 million a year or more to this type of pitcher? Buehrle has earned $15 million a year or more the past five years according to FanGraphs and is coming off a four-year, $56 million contract.
After a 14-win season in 2011, Harang will not sign for anything approaching what FanGraphs suggests his true value ($2.9 million) was this past year. Jackson’s numbers indicated he’s been worth $16.3, $15.2 and $17.0 million the past three years, during which time he made $15.55 million. He figures to look to cash in on this contract. Plus, when was the last time the Cardinals acquired someone and that person turned around after performing well and left St. Louis? I’m sure it has happened but it also seems like we hear about the Matt Holliday or Jake Westbrook or Lance Berkman types a whole lot more with St. Louis than just about any other city.
Last year, the fans were disappointed but not to an extreme extent when the Mets did not dip heavily into the free agent market. But if they lose Reyes and don’t bring anyone on bigger than, say Chris Capuano, it’s hard to imagine them not getting killed in the press and on talk radio. Generally, I don’t see Alderson being swayed too much by that type of thing, but when attendance dropped this past season by an average of nearly 2,300 per game, one figures ownership will want to appear to be doing something to reverse that trend.
Could it be that Reyes’ departure might be the ticket back in town for Carlos Beltran?
Mets fans finally embraced Beltran this season and it’s not a coincidence that the team played just .423 ball (25-34) after he was traded. And what might have flied under the radar some since the Giants did not advance to the playoffs is how well Beltran played in San Francisco. After getting off to a slow start with the Giants, which included a stint on the DL, Beltran was outstanding in September. In the final month of the season, Beltran put up a .378/.434/.700 line in 99 PA.
For the season, Beltran had a .910 OPS and FanGraphs pegged his season as being worth $21.1 million. It’s unclear how many teams will be interested in Beltran this offseason but there were quite a few looking to add him as a rental during the year. It would be surprising if the Giants did not make a big play to retain him for next season and beyond.
But the offseason is the time for wishcasting and it’s still fun for me to figure out a way for Beltran to return. Of course the issue would be where he would play for the 2012 Mets? Lucas Duda appears penciled in as the team’s right fielder but it’s no secret that Duda is stretched defensively in right. Can Beltran still play CF? It’s scary to think of a defensive alignment where Jason Bay is the best fielder but it’s fun to think what the team’s lineup could be:
Defense is important but we saw the Cardinals move Lance Berkman to the outfield and make the playoffs. We saw the Brewers essentially punt defense this past season and they make the playoffs, too. There’s not just one blueprint to success.
While it’s fun to think about, I believe the chances of the Mets re-signing Beltran to be in single digits, maybe five percent. But even if it’s not Beltran, the Mets need to have a contingency plan for if Reyes moves on to greener pastures.
If Reyes leaves, who do you think the Mets turn their attention to on the free agency market?