The Mets are most clearly part of this writer’s DNA. Baby pictures show a tiny Kingman wearing Met clothes in the late 60s, 1970 saw this writer’s first trip to Shea, and the 1973 postseason was the beginning of what remains a very serious addiction 37 years later.
Following minor league stars has been a big part of this, and the Kingman family has watched with gleeful anticipation as players from Mike Vail to Mookie/Wally/Hubie to Darryl and Doc to Ike and Jennry have made their progress through the system.
Watching Jose Reyes was most definitely a large milepost along this long and often rewarding road. Jose was an injury-prone young player, who the Mets did their best to ruin with a ridiculous move to 2B, but he persevered and became a fine everyday player in 2005, and an incredibly productive player for the wondrous 3-year period of 2006-2008.
So while Jose has been a favorite here as well as elsewhere, the last two years have seen a tremendous regression in pretty much every way one can measure such things, for the team and for its leadoff table-setter.
Jose has spent two years battling injuries, and has been a shadow of the 2006-2008 Jose when he has been healthy and played regularly. And, in the true fashion of the luck and timing of everything for the Mets the last few years, the Mets must now begin debating whether or not to sign Jose to the huge, long-term deal he will clearly demand and receive from someone.
Is this the time to sign Jose to a huge deal? Or time to think about a trade?
When next year begins, it will be 3 years since Jose was among the game’s more productive players. The injuries which marred Jose’s early years have returned, and have clearly diminished his game.
In addition, Jose has shown himself to be far from an ideal team player. He pouted when switched to the 3rd spot in the order, and made it pretty clear that he would only be happy leading off. His OBP–never better than pretty good at best–is a mere .321 this season. This is awful for a leadoff hitter. Indeed, Jose has never topped .360 in OBP, even in the minors.
Jose’s terrible admission that he simply plays the game in a way which does not allow concentration on every pitch–and seemingly using this as an excuse for his inconsistent defense–speaks quite poorly to Jose’s mental makeup, in-game focus and overall intelligence.
Many fans like to pair Jose and David Wright as big reasons for the team’s failure to win and the collapses of 2007 and 2008. A look at the stats shows that while Jose did indeed disappear in Sept./Oct. of those two years, Wright did not, and was actually very productive.
Finally, “Jose being Jose” often means tolerating his much-debated antics. Jose’s huge grin and mini-dance for a September HR against the horrific Pirates after the team has long been finished is, alas, a pretty perfect picture of the player Jose is. Would he be homering if we were tied with the Phils and playing them?
So what to do?
It certainly is very, very possible that 2011 could see Jose begin another stretch similar to 2006-2008, especially as he will be chasing his first really massive contract. But even if he does do this, is this the right player to invest something like a 5/90 deal in, or whatever Jose will demand/command?
It says here that while keeping Jose would not be a terrible move, that exploring a deal might be in this team’s best interests. Surely there would be a team out there which would offer a very attractive package for a player with Jose’s history, especially considering his age and the fact that they would only be committed to one year and $11 million at this point. This would also make teams with lesser payrolls among those who might make nice offers.
Regardless of what the most “optimistic” fans might say, Jose has definitely never shown himself to be a leader. He is not a very mature player, he does not heal quickly, and he is not willing to make changes for the sake of the team.
Is this a player the team should risk yet another massive, long-term deal for? Pedro, Beltran, Delgado, Wagner, KRod, Johan, Bay—every one of the Mets’ big name, big money acquisitions has spent significant time on the DL while the team has floundered. In a time of clearly lowered payroll, is Jose the right guy to risk a huge amount of resources on?
In addition, at this point it is pretty much beyond debate that a change of culture is needed in the team’s clubhouse, and all signs point to Jose as being someone who is very unlikely to lead a sea change in what many, many pieces of evidence have suggested is a very complacent group which is indeed insufficiently aggravated by all that has befallen this team over the last four years.
Jose Reyes should not be given away or dumped as the Cards gave us Keith or as the cash-strapped Marlins gave us Mike Piazza. But the time has come for a serious exploration of what can be obtained in a trade for Jose. If the right package does not come along, then we can certainly keep this very good player, hope he returns to form in 2011, and then also hope that he will then be willing to re-sign here. Which is, of course, another big question which helps to make considering trading him easier. Do we want to take the risk of possibly losing Jose for nothing after next year?
Angel Pagan can replace Jose as leadoff hitter, and while he might not be as explosive as Jose was from 2006-2008, Pagan is a very solid player, who has successfully become a very productive everyday player in all ways–numbers, hustle, and making his 2009 on-field blunders nothing but a distant memory.
So the feeling here is that one could indeed make a case that it is time to explore trading Jose Reyes. But if–and only if–the team can receive a serious package of players, which must include at least one blue-chip top prospect or one established, young, productive major leaguer.