- Last Updated: 11:13 AM, November 4, 2011
- Posted: 1:09 AM, November 4, 2011
The Mets insist they want to retain Jose Reyes, but at their reasonable price and, well, they really should stop saying that.
It is akin to going into a Mercedes dealership, badly wanting a new model and telling a salesman you are willing to go as high as $5,000 to get one.
Free agency has begun and, thus, the fantasy that Reyes will fit into some bargain slot for the Mets is over. Whatever his injury history -- and it is concerning -- Reyes is one of the three or four most attractive players on the market and is going to have multiple bidders for his services. That combination will assure his payday soars well above the Mets’ budget.
As a Mets official told me this week after the familiar mantra of we want him at our price, “I think he will be blown away by someone else.”
Another Mets official said, “My instinct is no shot. I think if [GM] Sandy [Alderson] asked for it, ownership would follow his recommendations. But where the money is going to go it is not going to be the best way to spend the money, not on one player and not one player with this hamstring thing.”
Translation: If Reyes were to take a discount of four years at somewhere between $15 million and $17 million annually, the Mets would tolerate the scar tissue building in those hamstrings and how his one contract could hurt their financial maneuverability in other areas. But that is as likely as getting that new Mercedes for $5,000. Reyes might leave some money on the table to stay in his Long Island home and Citi Field comfort zone -- but not the difference between what the Mets would propose and what he will be offered elsewhere.
Remember that at this time last year you would have been laughed into silence if you suggested Jayson Werth would get seven years at $126 million. But each team brings its own pressure points and pathologies into play, which tend to drive the bidding frenzy.
The Nationals, for example, felt they needed to win for a big player to make them attractive to others, have an older owner (Ted Lerner) with deep pockets and a desire for results sooner than later and an owner’s son (Mark Lerner) bent on putting his imprint on the organization. Add that all up and you had the opening Scott Boras needed to make Jayson worth $126 million.
I still suspect Reyes will get six years in the $114 million range, but to get there he will have to patiently let negotiations for Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols play out and/or let the other NL East teams fret about what happens if a switch-hitting, multi-talented, 28-year-old shortstop ends up with a competitor.
Reyes’ representative, Peter Greenberg, told George A. King III of The Post, “If some team wants to make an offer, we don’t have a timetable set.”
But many clubs that have eyes on Reyes might have him as a Plan 1-A or B, so Reyes will have to wait. For example, if the Cardinals cannot retain Pujols, they could redirect a chunk of those dollars toward Reyes to fill shortstop and provide a leadoff man to help Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and David Freese in a Pujols-absent middle of the order.
The Brewers, who almost certainly will lose Fielder, will inquire on Reyes, whose value rises if NL Central foes Milwaukee and St. Louis both pursue him.
But the real intrigue is within the Mets’ own division. The Nationals and, to some degree, Marlins have interest in Pujols and Fielder. So if neither gets a slugging first baseman, they could gravitate toward Reyes; especially since Hanley Ramirez has indicated he would move to third base to accommodate Reyes in South Florida. With Alex Gonzalez a free agent, the Braves need a shortstop and crave offensive diversity. The Phillies could lose shortstop Jimmy Rollins to free agency, which might put them into the Reyes derby as a way to spark a lineup that was reliant on homers.
“This is why free agency goes haywire,” an AL GM said. “You set your limits, then you get down the tracks and realize if you don’t get him, not only will it hurt you but help your competition. And you end up stretching and doing more than you ever thought at the beginning of the process.”
Thus, it doesn’t really matter what the Mets’ price is, it is not going to be enough to keep Reyes.Follow @NYPostsports