The first Jose Reyes trade rumor was thrown out early -- surely way too early to be seriously considered, as it came nearly three months before the trade deadline. But it won't be the last.
No, this was very likely just the first of a long string of rumors about the Mets shortstop that will run into July and quite possibly right up to the July 31 deadline. Officially, the speculation started when the Giants were said recently by CSNBayArea.com to have internally discussed Reyes, which is actually no great surprise since incumbent Giants shortstop Miguel Tejada's play or range and date hasn't matched his characteristic enthusiasm.
One person familiar with the Giants' thinking said there's "nothing to it.'' At least there isn't at the moment. But that won't stop the rumors from coming.
Reyes, still just 27, remains one of the star players most likely to be traded this season, as he is an impact player on the cusp of free agency, and he plays for a team that may not be in the race and very likely doesn't have the resources or inclination to lock him up long term. So speculation will reign.
But it isn't just the Giants who could use a star such as Reyes, who is off to a nice start with a .313 batting average and 11 stolen bases. Here is a rundown of teams that appear most in need of the three-time All-Star:
1. Cardinals. The NL-Central-leaders are employing Ryan Theriot at shortstop, a scrappy guy, good team man and decent hitter who may not be the solid defender they need there. "Theriot's more of a utilityman,'' one scout opined. Manager Tony La Russa recently gave Theriot a vote of confidence, which means very little, of course. Reyes would surely only be a rental there, as they are saving all their shekels for King Albert.
2. Giants. They are indeed a logical fit if Tejada doesn't pick things up. "He's not a shortstop anymore,'' one scout said of the 36-year-old Tejada. Maybe he will get a last wind, but so far, he's made 35-year-old Edgar Renteria, the man he replaced in San Francisco, look downright youthful.
The majority of the Giants' rotation is strikeout pitchers (Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez) or flyball pitchers (Matt Cain), so maybe it doesn't much matter as much defensively as it would with another team. But Reyes might be able to kick-start a struggling offense.
The Giants, though, aren't likely to surrender a plethora of prospects. They'd surely balk at any request for top hitting prospect Brandon Belt, a first baseman who doesn't really fit the Mets, anyway. Beyond that, "the Giants' system isn't very good'' at present, one scout said.
And let's not forget GM Brian Sabean wouldn't surrender a top young pitcher such as Madison Bumgarner last year, even for Toronto's Jose Bautista, who was on his way to a home-run title when the Giants appeared to most need power and Bautista had two years to go before free agency. As it turns out, Sabean made the right call, of course, as Bumgarner helped pitch them to a World Series title.
3. Brewers. Baseball people aren't sold on Yuniesky Betancourt, who seemed like just a placeholder when he was brought over from the Royals in the Zack Greinke trade. However, the Brewers have very little left to trade after making their deals for Greinke and fellow starting pitcher Shaun Marcum last offseason.
4. Red Sox. Jed Lowrie has slowed from his torrid start but is expected to get the majority of playing time for now. Marco Scutaro is 36, and prospect Jose Iglesias is probably a year away. Boston has better prospects to trade than the other logical teams for Reyes and, of course, they have the funds to pay him.
5. Twins. Alexi Casilla (.183) might not be the answer. But do they have extra money? And will they get back in the race?
6. Mariners. Of course, Reyes would represent a major upgrade over what Seattle currently has, which includes Brendan Ryan and Jack Wilson. The Mariners are playing better. But are they a contender this year? Even with Reyes, they probably don't have enough offense.
Reyes, for his part, said, "I don't care about what people say. I just have to continue to play baseball.''
At the same time, Reyes feels he hasn't fulfilled his goals the past few years because of injuries. He looks like the Reyes of 2006 again this year, and he said he feels as good as he has in years. "I feel like I still have something to prove to people,'' Reyes said. "The way I've been the last three years, I have to prove I am healthy.''
So far, he looks darned healthy. His .363 on-base percentage, which would represent a career best, has to please new Mets GM Sandy Alderson.
Several teams would have to be interested. But how interested are the Mets? If they trade him, there's an obvious downside, or actually several downsides.
"They think they have problems with attendance now? If they trade him, they literally surrender this year,'' one NL executive and longtime Mets watcher said.
The Mets also don't have an obvious replacement in the fold. Ruben Tejada hasn't proven he can hit, and Wilmer Flores, will, in the words of one scout, "have to be moved off shortstop.'' That scout said Flores had a "marginal arm'' and "no range'' to go with a good bat, which doesn't sound like a shortstop of the future.
In other words, the Mets have a tough call. The good news is, they have nearly three months to make up their minds.
• Derek Lowe (2-3, 3.72 ERA) could be trade bait at the deadline, as the Braves are very deep in starting pitching, down into the minors. The Yankees are one team that would make sense, as Lowe's annual salary of $15 million is steep for most. His DUI was a surprise in that he seems to have matured since his early years in Boston, when he was well-known as a late-night guy. He did handle the episode well with his apology.
• One piece of good news about Jake Peavy, who has yet to pitch this season: The White Sox have insurance on Peavy, according to sources. One source suggested the team has already met its deductible, meaning it will begin receiving payments on Peavy if it hasn't already. White Sox GM Ken Williams recently defended the trade that brought Peavy to Chicago from San Diego two years ago, saying a No. 1 pitcher is imperative.
• The most vocal and practically only defender of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has been Steve Soboroff, the team's vice chairman. That's fine, you'd expect someone high in the Dodgers' organization to step forward. But Soboroff was only hired April 19, casting doubt on how much he actually knows about McCourt's operation and raising the question of whether any longtime aides have such a strong belief in McCourt beyond the lawyers he pays. Soboroff's hiring came one day before MLB appointed Tom Schieffer to oversee the financially strapped operation.
• The callup of top prospect Eric Hosmer by the Royals shouldn't have been such a surprise in that he was hitting .439 at Triple-A. Of all the prospects, he drew the most raves this spring, for his power first but also his defensive play at first base.
• Meanwhile, Bryce Harper is drawing raves. Harper, the No. 1 overall pick by the Nationals in last year's draft, is "the best young player I've seen,'' one longtime scout said. He is batting .358 with six home runs while showing the ability to bunt -- yes, bunt -- and steal (he has five stolen bases) at Class-A Hagerstown (Md.). "He won't be there long,'' the scout said.
• The Rangers are said to believe Cuban import Leonys Martin, a speedy centerfielder who just signed with them for $15.5 million, might help them as early as this year. Julio Borbon's stock has dropped.
• The Yankees lost some infield depth when Eric Chavez, who was doing a great job in reserve for them, suffered a broken toe while legging out a triple on Thursday. Their other issue involving a backup infielder is the fielding woes of Eduardo Nuñez, who has made five errors in 23 innings. He has received constant support from Alex Rodriguez and a pep talk from Derek Jeter. Even so, the Yankees might be better off employing the defensively sure Ramiro Peña as the backup shortstop for now, though.
• Kenny Friedman, a prominent Houston attorney and the father of Rays GM Andrew Friedman, is in line to bid for the Astros should Jim Crane not be able to work out a deal with Astros owner Drayton McLane (Crane has an exclusive negotiating window at the moment, as reported by the Houston Chronicle). The Rays' Friedman told the St. Petersburg Times his father's endeavor had "no bearing'' on his efforts with the Rays.
That surely is true for now, but if the elder Friedman gets the Astros, one would think he could have interest in hiring Andrew, one of the game's better GMs, at some point. One of Andrew's top lieutenants, Gerry Hunsicker, also was one of the Astros' more successful GMs and is believed to have left because working for McLane wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
• Tigers manager Jim Leyland's decision to install Brennan Boesch as his No. 3 hitter and move Magglio Ordoñez down from No. 3 to No. 6 seems to have paid off for both Boesch and Ordoñez. The Tigers won the next two from the Yankees to make it three wins in a row after losing seven straight. There's a bit of pressure this year on the iconic Leyland, whose contract expires at year's end.
• It's early in Ryan Howard's $125 million contract. But Howard, who has a league-leading 29 RBIs, is worth every penny so far.
• Perhaps the Nationals ought to consider locking up manager Jim Riggleman. Washington has stayed afloat without its best pitcher (Stephen Strasburg) or best position player (Ryan Zimmerman). Kudos to Riggleman.