Cut by Rockies, expect Jose Reyes's market to be deservedly quiet
The Rockies are cutting ties with Jose Reyes. On Wednesday, with the 33-year-old shortstop's domestic violence suspension and 15-day rehab assignment having been completed, the club designated him for assignment rather than add him to its 40-man roster. Colorado now has a maximum of 10 days to trade or release him, but the team will be responsible for the bulk of his remaining salary, and it remains to be seen if any other team is interested in his services.
Reyes was arrested last Oct. 31 on domestic abuse charges in Maui, Hawaii. At the time, his wife, Katherine Ramirez, told police that he had grabbed her throat and had shoved her into a sliding glass door. She was taken to a local hospital with injuries to her neck, wrists and thigh but ultimately refused to cooperate with prosecutors, prompting the criminal charges against Reyes to be dropped at the end of March. Under the new domestic violence policy that Major League Baseball and the players' union introduced last August, however, Reyes was subject to being disciplined by the league even with a lack of legal proceedings against him. Commissioner Rob Manfred placed him on paid administrative leave on Feb. 23, keeping him out of spring training, and he remained there even after the charges were dropped.
On March 1, Manfred handed down a 30-day suspension to the Yankees' Aroldis Chapman for a domestic violence incident in which charges were not filed—the first ban under the new policy. Manfred did not announce the duration of Reyes's suspension, however, until May 13, at which time the veteran shortstop was suspended through June 1—a total of 52 games. Reyes was credited with time served but ordered to pay back the salary he had drawn while on leave and to donate $100,000 to a domestic violence charity; in all, he lost just over $7 million from his $22 million salary.
On June 2, Reyes began a rehab assignment with the Rockies' Triple A affiliate in Albuquerque, where he played nine games and hit .303/.425/.485 with a pair of homers. The move was more of an audition for other teams to see what he still might be capable of rather than preparation to join Colorado, which acquired him last July 28 in the six-player blockbuster that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto. Rookie Trevor Story, a 23-year-old former supplemental first-round pick, claimed the Rockies’ starting shortstop job in spring training, homered twice off Zack Greinke in his major league debut on Opening Day and ran his total to an unprecedented seven homers in his first six games. He’s currently hitting .265/.318/.593 with 17 homers (but 93 strikeouts) in 275 plate appearances, a better-than-expected showing for a team that has been a pleasant surprise after losing 190 games over the last two seasons. Through Tuesday, the Rockies are 31–33 with a -4 run differential.
Whatever combination of Story's showing, the team's performance, Reyes's dreadful play in 2015 (.274/.310/.378 with seven homers, an 82 OPS+, -8 Defensive Runs Saved and 0.4 WAR) and his notoriety in the wake of his arrest and suspension led to this decision by the Rockies, they are almost certain to suffer a significant financial blow via this move, though acquiring him did get them out from under the $98 million Tulowitzki was owed from 2016 to '20, including a '21 buyout. Reyes is still owed $39.1 million from the six-year, $106 million contract he signed with the Marlins back in December 2011, via $13.1 million for the remainder of this season, $22 million for next year and a $4 million buyout of his $22 million option for '18. Unless a team chooses to trade for him and absorb some of that salary, the Rockies will be on the hook for all but the prorated share of the $507,500 minimum salary. By waiting until he's released, Reyes's new team can basically get him for next to nothing—at least, if he agrees to sign with them.
When Reyes's suspension was handed down in May, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that there were teams interested in trading for him, but none have been publicly connected to him. Reyes, a four-time All-Star, was worth 3.2 WAR as recently as 2014 on the strength of his hitting (.287/.328/.398 with nine homers and a 105 OPS+) and base running (30 for 32 in stolen bases, +9 runs including advancement and double play avoidance), but that was offset by his declining defense (-16 DRS, his third time in four years at least 10 runs into the red). All of which is to say that he may no longer be viewed as a starting shortstop but rather as a utility infielder in the making; he has 57 games of professional experience at second base, most of it in 2004, when he played 43 games at the keystone for the Mets.
Offhand, there aren't any obvious fits for Reyes as a starting shortstop. Of the 34 players at the position with at least 100 plate appearances this year, 20 have been worth 1.0 WAR or less, seven at replacement level or lower. One of them is Twins backup Edwin Escobar, and another is ex-White Sox starter Jimmy Rollins, released last week in favor of prospect Tim Anderson. One team that stands out as a possible fit is the Padres: Alexei Ramirez is struggling on both sides of the ball (.250/.285/.336, -7 DRS, -0.4 WAR) and is only making $4 million this year. Given general manager A.J. Preller's tendency for counterintuitive moves, it's not hard to imagine San Diego taking a chance—but that's pure speculation.
Elsewhere below replacement level, the Braves' Erick Aybar and Daniel Castro have combined for -2.5 WAR; Atlanta could theoretically try to trade Aybar (.187/.232/.226), but there’s no good argument as to why a near-unwatchable team would take on an unpopular player who won't figure into its future. Royals manager Ned Yost finally took Alcides Escobar (-1.1 WAR, .268 OBP) out of the leadoff spot last week—dropping him all the way to second—but Kansas City isn't replacing him anytime soon. The Rays' Brad Miller (.237/.291/.426, -10 DRS, -0.2 WAR) has been a disappointment, but even with Tampa's longstanding tendency to overlook character issues if a player is affordable, Tropicana Field's turf isn't a good fit for Reyes, who was 29 runs below average in 2 1/2 seasons in Toronto.
All of which is to suggest that barring a sudden injury to a starting shortstop, there’s little reason to expect Reyes to play regularly anytime soon. His rock-bottom price suggests that some team will take a flyer on him, warts and all, but there are no guarantees as to where his career goes from here.