Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but when asked on Tuesday whether any Mets were “untouchable” Sandy Alderson listed David Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay (more untradeable than anything else). Notice anyone missing? A certain shortstop/professor/dancer maybe?
None of us are Sandy-ologists quite yet, but he doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who “forgets” about his all-star shortstop. So, might Sandy actually be considering trading Jose Reyes?
I think the answer is clearly yes. The interesting questions, then, are 1) why; 2) to whom and 3) what do we get in return? Today, I’ll look at why, and in a future post I’ll tackle the other issues.
Why is tough. Let me start by saying I love Jose Reyes. I don’t care that he dances. I think he plays hard and I think he cares about winning. But, that being said, he’s never been a consistently great player. And, more importantly, the odds aren’t great that he’s going to be better, and in fact, the odds suggest that he’s going to get worse.
To illustrate, below are some of Jose’s stats from 2006-10:
Notice anything? Jose’s not getting any better, and his BABIP suggests it isn’t bad luck. Now, I know he’s been injured a lot the last two years. But, still. When he was healthy, he wasn’t getting any better, and in fact regressed a little, in particular with regard to his plate discipline. The sad thing is, it didn’t necessarily have to be this way. Let me show you the percentage of Jose’s walks as a percentage of his overall plate appearances month-by-month for 2007 and 2008 (this is a good way to measure pure plate discipline because OBP can be impacted by fluctuations in batting average):
|Mar/Apr ‘07||May ‘07||June ‘07||July ‘07||Aug ‘07||Sept. /Oct.‘07||Mar./Apr. ‘08||May ‘08||June ‘08||July ‘08||Aug ‘08||Sept/Oct ‘08|
Jose never matched his plate discipline numbers from the first half of 2007. What happened in July 2007? The Mets fired hitting coach Rick Down (for reasons I am still waiting for Mike and the Mad Dog to tell us about). True, this is only correlation and not causation, but I don’t think it’s coincidental. It’s been widely reported that Down and Reyes had a good relationship, and clearly Jose hasn’t been quite the same player (or at least isn’t any better) since Down left.
Perhaps a new hitting coach can get through to Jose. But even if one could, there’s another problem. Players who rely on their legs as much as Reyes does tend to decline rapidly as they get older. A recent study by economist J.C. Bradbury, available on baseball prospectus, found that players whose predominant trait is speed (think Reyes) tend to reach their peak performance at age 28, or Jose’s age at the start of next season. Nate Silver also found in an earlier study that speed is the skill that goes the fastest.
And if Jose loses some speed, he’s going to lose value. To show one simple way of how a loss of speed could hurt Jose, let’s cut his infield hits and bunt hits in 2007 and 2008 by half and recalculate his batting average and OBP accordingly:
|Bunt hits (before/after)||Infield hits (before/after)||Old/New BA||Old/New OBP|
In short, even a marginal reduction in Jose’s speed—resulting in the loss of about 15 hits a year—causes a major reduction in his value. And we haven’t even taken into account the loss in value caused by a drop in steals, or doubles that used to be triples. If you think this story sounds familiar, that’s because Mets fans have seen what happens when a speed player (albeit one with less power than Jose), loses his speed. It’s the Luis Castillo story and it doesn’t have a happy ending.
If you’re a Jose fan, you’re probably saying right now: this is all because of injuries. When Jose is healthy again, he will produce. Just look at June of last year for proof of what Jose can do when he’s healthy. But that’s part of the problem. Players like Jose tend to get injured, a lot. Think about a stolen base, it has to be the baseball activity with the greatest risk of injury. Simply, stealing bases is dangerous.
Of course, if I’ve convinced you that Jose isn’t a great risk going forward, that doesn’t mean the Mets should trade him. Possible reasons not to trade him would be: he’s better than anyone else we could get or he’s a lot better than what we could get for him in a trade/his money can’t be spent better in other ways.
Next time, I’ll test these propositions. Namely, what could the Mets do at shortstop if they traded Jose, who would they trade him to, and finally, what could they get in return? To whet your appetites going forward, right now, I see Jose taking his talents to Boston. But, if you have some ideas of other potential trade partners, please post them in the comments. I’ll try and incorporate the best ones into my next post.