Jose Reyes' big goal this season, his last before his contract expires, was to prove he can stay healthy and sound for a full season. And now that the Mets' star shortstop has gone on the disabled list with a hamstring injury for the second time this year, that's out. But will it hurt his free-agent take?
The consensus seems to be that it might hinder Reyes' case. But here's why it might not: Great two-way shortstops like Reyes don't very often hit the free-agent market, and so he is still likely to have a very big payday. A decade ago, Alex Rodriguez, a great two-way shortstop, made his $252 million score. And while Reyes isn't A-Rod, he is a dynamic offensive and defensive player. Those types of players aren't usually disappointed with what they find on the free-agent market.
Rival executives identified no less than nine teams that could be a fit for Reyes both in terms of finances and the playing field. Those teams are the Giants, Cardinals, Tigers, Angels, Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees in addition to the incumbent Mets, who already have made clear they will make a play for the popular homegrown star who still leads the National League in batting average (.336), runs (80) and triple (16), even after missing significant time.
The most intriguing teams on that list are the Yankees and Red Sox, and while neither would seem to be likely landing spots for Reyes, execs say that they can never be ruled out. Yankees people are intrigued by the cross-town star, but with Derek Jeter still playing shortstop capably, if not spectacularly, and two years plus a player option remaining on his deal, Yankees people suggest a run at Reyes is unlikely. Reyes seems a more natural fit for the Red Sox with Marco Scutaro also a free agent after the year -- although, Boston people say they don't believe they will have big money for a position player after spending close to $300 million last winter on Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, who got a seven-year, $142 million deal.
Early this season, before Reyes began to put up big numbers (and before he got hurt again, for that matter), Mets owner Fred Wilpon, in his infamous interview with The New Yorker, said Reyes wouldn't get a "Carl Crawford contract." While that comment was regrettable, there remains no reason to think the Mets will offer a seven-year deal. There have been indications they are thinking about a five-year deal for somewhere in the range of $90 million, though perhaps they could stretch it to close to $100 million.
Reyes is said by people close to him to badly want to remain a Met. But at this stage, with free agency almost here, it is rare that offers that are seen as hometown discounts win the day. Perhaps if the Mets stretched it to six years, they'd have a better shot. But even after Reyes' latest injury, based on the history of free agency, five years is unlikely to get it done.
Here's a rundown of the other potential players for Reyes:
1. Giants. Long considered the natural fit as a big-market team awash in cash who could use an offensive boost, not to mention a shortstop.
2. Angels. His speed would fit perfectly into Mike Scioscia's running game. But owner Arte Moreno hasn't relished playing for free agents in recent years and has to concern himself with his trio of excellent starting pitchers -- Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana -- who are all free agents after 2012.
3. Nationals. They gained a rep as a big free-agent player when they lavished the $126 million deal on Jayson Werth last offseason. Shortstop Ian Desmond was involved in trade talk in July but is still there.
4. Cardinals. Albert Pujols, whose contract runs out after the season, is the priority, of course. But what if Pujols goes elsewhere? Well, Rafael Furcal is only on rental.
5. Tigers. They are getting a nice year out of shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who is batting .312 and made the All-Star team, but owner Mike Ilitch has occasionally stretched to win.
6. Phillies. Their longtime star shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, will be a free agent. It's hard to see them spending so big at shortstop after their starting pitching allocations, though they still like Rollins, who'd be a lot cheaper.
7. Red Sox. Slick-fielding prospect Jose Iglesias is unproven as a hitter. But they are seen as long shots here.
8. Yankees. Tempting as it might be, Jeter looks like he has another solid year at shortstop left in him.
9. Braves. Michael Bourn, acquired in a trade with the Astros at the trade deadline, solved their leadoff question, and while shortstop Alex Gonzalez's contract is up, they aren't expected to make this sort of expenditure.
• The Red Sox and David Ortiz haven't discussed a new contract yet, but Red Sox people seem confident about their chances to bring back their longtime star who's having his best year (.929 OPS) since 2007. Ortiz asked for a three-year deal last winter but Boston avoided a difficult negotiation by simply picking up his $12.5 million option. In an interview with Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, Ortiz suggested he's concerned about the fact his contract hasn't been discussed yet by the team, but Red Sox people note that they have an open-door policy and he hasn't come to them, either. Ortiz has said publicly he again wants a multi-year deal. But management hopes to keep it to one year barring some extraordinary circumstance. The DH market appeared to be a one-year market last winter, with the exception of Adam Dunn, who got four years from the White Sox. And as one AL executive pointed out, "And we see how that is working out." Dunn is hitting .165, the worst average in the majors by 45 points.
• There is no sign of any deal yet for the top two draft choices, Gerrit Cole or Danny Hultzen, and both negotiations are expected to go right to the Aug. 15 deadline. Cole, a UCLA rigthander who has hit 102 mph on the gun, is looking to come close to but not match the record $15.067 million bonus Stephen Strasburg received two years ago from the Nationals while Hultzen, a lefthander who went 31-5 with a 2.18 ERA at the University of Virginia, is looking for $13 million plus school from the Mariners. Neither player is moved by No. 3 pick Trevor Bauer getting $4.4 million guaranteed with a chance to make $7 million from the Diamondbacks. The teams can point to recent contracts with hope (the Pirates paid 2010 No. 2 overall pick Jameson Taillon $7 million and the Mariners paid 2009 No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley $7.5 million), but both teams would be taking a big chance if they fail to sign their respective picks. The possible replacement picks for 2012 aren't considered on the level of these two pitchers. The Pirates have been making progress this year but still have to rally to snap their 18-year losing streak, and the Mariners passed up big hitters (Anthony Rendon, Bubba Starling) to choose a pitcher they loved to round out a superb rotation of the future.
• There is no word yet on new contracts for Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik or Pirates GM Neal Huntington. Both would seem to have done enough to return, with the Mariners gathering several nice future pieces and the Pirates showing strong improvement before their recent 10-game losing streak. But if either of the top two players doesn't get signed, that will be a bad sign for the GM.
• As of Tuesday morning, the Padres hadn't yet put Heath Bell on waivers, as they possibly seek the perfect time to facilitate a deal. However, Padres people surely know the chances for the cost-efficient Bell to clear waivers are practically nil, and he'd have to be claimed by the perfect team to make a quick trade. They have offered him $14 million over two years, but if they don't do a multiyear deal they will offer him arbitration for next year. If he accepts, as he has said he intends to, he would be under a one-year, non-guaranteed contract and could be traded next winter or spring (it doesn't happen often but Frank Francisco and Mike Napoli were arbitration players traded last winter).
• Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez also hadn't been placed on waivers as of Tuesday, although his situation is different because it's believed he is unlikely to be claimed. Perhaps Houston is waiting for the Yankees to become more desperate for a starting pitcher since they were the team that showed interest at the July 31 deadline -- though if he clears, as expected, he could be traded anywhere. The Yankees offered to pay $21 million of the $38 million remaining on Rodriguez's deal, so it is hard to imagine them (or anyone else) putting in a claim. The Yankees seem less desperate for a starter now; although A.J. Burnett has continued to struggle, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova and even Phil Hughes have looked good since the deadline. So has top prospect Manuel Banuelos, who has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre.
• The Red Sox made a nice multi-prospect offer for Ubaldo Jimenez before Jimenez was traded from the Rockies to the Indians but Boston declined to include its very top prospects, including pitcher Anthony Ranaudo. Rockies people thought they might match up with either the Reds or Yankees but couldn't find a match even though they weren't insisting on top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco (the Rockies like their own catching prospect Wilin Rosario and saw a potential deal with Cincinnati even without untouchable Mesoraco) from Cincinnati or Banuelos from New York. The Yankees just didn't like Jimenez that much, it turns out. Colorado loved Indians righthanded pitching prospect Alex White in addition to ballyhooed lefthander Drew Pomeranz, who can't officially join Colorado until Aug. 15 because he only signed with Cleveland last Aug. 15 after being a No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft.
• The Diamondbacks are becoming an amazing story as they continue to threaten the defending World Series champion Giants in the NL West. Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, who has won 14 games, is a threat to win 20. That three-team trade that sent Kennedy from the Yankees to the D-backs after the 2009 season has worked for everyone, with the Yankees thrilled with AL MVP candidate Curtis Granderson and the Tigers getting the more cost-efficient starter Max Scherzer, outfielder Austin Jackson and others.
• The Twins would like to re-sign Michael Cuddyer. As for their other free agents, it is believed they'd like to keep closer Joe Nathan, who is looking like his old self again (though his $12 million option might be tough to exercise) and they will probably let reliever Matt Capps leave as a free agent.
• A big switch in the agent game, as multitalented outfielder Colby Rasmus has hired the Beverly Hills Sports Council. Lots of changes for Rasmus this year, who was traded from the Cardinals to the Blue Jays.
• Rumors are picking up that the White Sox would hire Tony La Russa as manager if they decided to let Ozzie Guillen go to the Marlins. One person with connections to the White Sox suggested that scenario was far-fetched, saying those rumors only keep cropping up because of the La Russa's well-known close relationship with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.