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For months now, the media, fans, bloggers and even casual fans have been clamoring about how the Mets will afford to keep Jose Reyes. After all, Reyes is the Mets biggest star, and has been just about the only real bright spot in the hazy muck that is the 2011 Mets season.
In an injury shortened year, Reyes has still been worth about 6 WAR according to fangraphs. In just 124 games, Reyes has put up a triple slash line of .334/.381/.481, translating to a .380 wOBA and a 144 wRC+, extraordinary numbers from any angle, but even more so considering the dearth of quality shortstops. Extrapolated into a 162 game sample, Reyes has been worth almost 8 WAR, near tops in the majors.
Not only has Reyes been the Mets best player, he has been one of the best players in baseball, and more importantly, a true star in a position of tremendous scarcity. In spite of all of this, the correct question may not be "how can they afford to resign him?" The question may very well be, "Should they even try?"
If it were a guarantee that Reyes produce similarly every season, or even just somewhat throughout whatever contract the Mets were to give him, this would be a no-brainer. But, it is highly unlikely that he produces the same way once more throughout his career.
Moreover, he has been beaten up over the last several seasons, and is rapidly approaching 30. Overall, he has missed about a full season's worth of games due to various injuries over the last three years. As he gets older, this trend will almost certainly continue.
And not only has Reyes been injured, but injuries have continually attacked his game's most impressive facet, his speed. Hamstring injury after hamstring injury; never a good sign.
And then there is his fielding. Reyes has certainly lost a step in the field since his early prime of 2006-2008. In fact, his fielding according to UZR has been negative each of the last three seasons. Even the most optimistic Mets fan can't argue that his fielding is going to get better as the years go on.
Imagine Reyes in five years. There is no guarantee that he will still be a viable option at shortstop, not when his legs are consistently giving out on him already. And in five years, Reyes will still be paid like a premier shortstop, even though he may be playing like a mediocre left-field.
Again, I am not for a second arguing that Jose Reyes right now is not worth whatever contract he is going to receive. For the first few years of it, he may even be worth more than his monetary reward. But as has been said time and time again, teams should not reward contracts based on past performance, or even current performance. Contracts have to be given out based on what is expected to be provided through the duration of that contract.
In some instances though, a team may be willing to eat a few dead years at the back end if the reward at the front end outweighs it. But for this to happen, the team must be a contending team looking for a player to push them over the top.
Think A.J. Burnett. The Yankees were already a contending team, with a hole in the rotation. Everyone involved knew that within a few years, Burnett would be an albatross. But, he was after all, the number two starter in a world champion team.
The Mets are not in this position. Unless Sandy Alderson can find more 15 wins worth of improvement over 2011, there is no point in hindering future success.
If Jose Reyes can be had on a relatively short term contract, even if it is a high annual salary, the Mets should, and probably would, jump all over it. But the chances of other teams not falling all over themselves to acquire a top-tier shortstop are slim to none.
Some team will overpay Reyes for a few years of great production and several more of mediocre production. It may even be worth it for that team. Reyes may be the difference between third place in the division and the league pennant. But that team will not be the Mets.