New York Mets spring training officially began today with pitchers and catchers reporting. Jose Reyes doesn't have to report until Feb. 19, but that didn't stop him from being the first day's topic for discussion.
Entering the last year of his five-year, $34.25 million contract, general manger Sandy Alderson said that "it's unlikely" that contract extension talks would occur during spring training with Reyes, who will make $11 million this year. In fact, there were rumblings just a few weeks ago that the Mets plan was to let Reyes play a full season to show how healthy he was before "maybe" offering him a new deal.
Even though Reyes said previously that he doesn't want to discuss an extension during the season, Alderson said: "It's not something I've ever ruled out, as a policy matter."
Still, despite the well-known financial struggles facing the Mets' ownership, the GM expressed optimism when discussing the possibility of doling out the dollars if and when time and performance warranted it.
"I'm confident I can do anything with any one individual player," Alderson said, as quoted in the The Record. "Anything we do is going to be viewed through the prism of what's going on in New York. There's no question about that. All I can do is try to make the best baseball judgments and at this point, I'm not facing any limitations and at this point, don't expect to."
Because Alderson comes from the school of thought that values walks and on-base percentage, and doesn't put a lot of stock in stolen bases, it was thought that Reyes wasn't his type of player: a stolen base machine when healthy, but one with just a .335 OBP for his career.
Alderson quieted those skeptics:
"I had a lot of different players on a lot of different teams, many of whom had very different profiles," Alderson said, as quoted from ESPN NY. That probably alludes to his reliance on speed and my sense that maybe speed is not as critical. But he brings so many different things to the table, as I've said earlier, that you can't just focus on the speed element. The speed element is a plus. There's no question about that, and well-appreciated by me, by the way."
After Carl Crawford, a similarly talented player to Reyes, but one with less injury history/more power, inked a seven-year, $142 million pact this winter with the Red Sox, Mets executives now believe they have a framework for what Reyes could get in the open market. After all, he's about two years younger and plays a premium position with a dearth of dynamic offensive players.
"When he's healthy, depends I guess on your definition of healthy, but he's definitely the kind of impact player that can make a huge difference," Alderson said.
"But it's a matter of being the whole package. It's the on-base percentage. It's the defense. It's the stolen bases. It's the little bit of power that he has. It's the whole package that you're looking for, and in any given year, some of it shows up stronger than others. That's true for any player, not just Jose, so we'll see how it goes. I know he's motivated, so that's good for us."
Nobody ever said playing for a contract was a bad thing -- but if Reyes returns to his old form this season, the Mets better hope their financial situation doesn't impede any potential negotiations.
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