Jose Reyes: A Franchise Player the Mets Can't Possibly Replace?

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Judging from the enthusiasm being displayed on the radio call-in shows, Mets fans may be putting a little too much stock in Jose Reyes' resounding statement on Friday that he's not going to go with Scott Boras as his agent in upcoming contract negotiations.

That is, if they are assuming that because he's not signing with Boras, he's going to remain a Met. Yes, players have made promises in the past and then switched agents, but I don't recall any being quite as emphatic as Reyes: "No chance. I am happy with my agent." That's because he knows his agent, Peter E. Greenberg, is very good and has had much more experience dealing with the Wilpons than Boras has.

Reyes is also smart enough to understand that it's the attractiveness of the client that makes for the deal, not the agent. Or simply put, Jose knows that given the kind of year he's having and considering the sparseness of available talent at perhaps the game's key defensive position, he brings a lot to the table for negotiations with any team.

In fact, he brings much more to the Mets' table than they're likely going to want to deal with. There's been some recent talk of the Mets signing Reyes for a second straight three-year contract extension before the July 31 trade deadline -- or even before the end of the season -- but as Tyler Kepner puts it in Saturday's New York Times, "The Mets may stay close enough to contention that they will keep Reyes ... But even if they offered Reyes a new contract before the end of the season, why would he accept?

Why, indeed. How can Reyes possibly find out what he's worth if he doesn't wait until he's a free agent and all interested parties -- i.e., the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees (whom I still insist could shock everyone on this) or possibly even the Brewers, who, though they don't have the revenue of a "big market" team, may have enough to put in a bid for the one player who could put them over the top. (And some are making the same argument for the Rays.)

What has changed in the past few weeks about the Mets financial situation that would suddenly make Fred Wilpon eat his words and decide that Jose is worth (as he told the New Yorker a few weeks ago) Carl Crawford money. (Crawford signed a seven-year, $142 mil deal with the Red Sox last winter.)

There's something else for the Mets front office to think about. In Sunday's Daily News, Tim Smith spoke to the Mets' all-time greatest franchise player, Tom Seaver -- whom, lest we forget, they allowed to depart New York. (Tom Terrific was in town for Mets-Angels.) Seaver compared Reyes to two of the old Big Red Machine's major stars, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan: "He's that level of player, but what are you gonna replace him with?"

Well, I dunno, Two weeks ago Reyes was having a fine season, but he wasn't leading the National League in hitting and nobody was comparing him to Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan (though I think for much if his career he's been at or near their level). What a difference a hot dozen or so games and 20 points on your batting average can make.

The point is this: Who says the Mets are really serious about having any "franchise player" at all? What are the indications that they're serious about even having a franchise? If they are in as deep a financial hole as they appear to be, they're not going to be bidding for any other free agents besides Reyes, which means, given the apparent dearth of minor league prospects, they plan on taking two or three years off before they really think about building a contender.

Why then would Jose want to stick around on a mediocre team that has little chance of making the playoffs even if the Mets did meet his asking price? "The Mets," writes Smith, "have to decide whether their championship hopes rest with Reyes or the pieces they can assemble without him." I'd say that's putting it all too grandly. I'd say what the Mets have to do first is decide whether they really have any "championship hopes" with or without Reyes.

If the Mets are serious about being contenders any time in the next three-four years, then there isn't any question that they had better make every effort to convince Jose Reyes that Carl Crawford is soon going to be wishing he was getting Jose Reyes money.


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