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MLB Analysis: Should Mets Retain Jose Reyes?

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It’s always hard to improve an ailing baseball team by trading away your best players. It almost defies logic really. It doesn’t take a lot of management skills to ship out a club’s top player. What does take skill though is to get rid of unproductive and unwanted players while building a contender around your top prospects. Getting rid of dead wood and adding skilled players is hard while trading away marquee names is simple and that’s why it’s rare to see a general manger build a contender via carefully crafted moves.

This brings us to the New York Mets, and the baseball trade rumours swirling around ace shortstop Jose Reyes. It looks like the Mets aren’t going to contend again this year and management has to decide if they should keep Reyes, who’s on the last year of his contract, trade him, or let him walk at the end of the season.

Forget about letting him walk. Reyes either stays a Met or gets traded before the deadline. Looking at the club’s payroll, it appears they can afford to keep Reyes this season and should be able to come up with the cash for a new contract next year as they only have $66.8 million on the books for 2012. This is largely due to the fact the contracts of Reyes, Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran, and Luis Castillo will have expired.  Francisco Rodriguez is owed another $17.5 million, but only if he manages to finish 55 games this season.

The big decision for the Mets is what to do with Reyes. On one hand, trading him gives the team a chance to build for the future with some solid prospects. But on the other hand, you’ve already got one of the best baseball players in the game, so why not add to the puzzle and build around him?

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If they do decide to trade him, the Mets have to get the timing down pat and deal Reyes when his value’s at the absolute peak. It’s unlikely they’ll deal him this early in the season and will wait until at least June unless they get an offer that blows their socks off.

If the Mets want to clean house and start from scratch, Reyes will be a goner. But if they view him as a franchise player and a foundation to build on, they won’t ship him out for odds and ends. Everybody has their opinion, but it’s going to come down to what the Mets feel is the best for the team in the long run.

A lot of fans feel the club has already seen the best of Reyes and he’s on the downslide, but looking at his statistics, that’s a hard argument to make. He’ll be 28-year-old in June and possibly entering his prime years as a baseball player.

Reyes averaged 16 triples and 65 stolen bases between 2005 and 08 before being injured for most of 2009. He rebounded last year with 10 triples and 30 stolen bases, showing he hasn’t lost his speed. The three-time All-Star also got off to a great start this year and led the NL in hits with 4f after the first 34 games. He also had a .331 batting average to go along with a .507 slugging percentage and .379 on-base percentage.

He also has a sunny disposition and doesn’t seemed too concerned about things he has no control of, such as trades and free agency. The Mets need to take a long, hard look at the situation to make sure they don’t blow it.

They’re not the most talented bunch and could use some starting pitching, especially with Chris Young and Jenrry Mejia dealing with injuries. They could also stockpile their farm system by dealing Reyes as he’s the team’s most tradable asset, along with third baseman David Wright. In addition, Reyes will be looking for a long-term deal next season and could break the bank, considering that Carl Crawford got a $142 million deal in free agency.

Keeping Reyes means the fans won’t look at the Mets as a team that’s bailing on them and will also help them sell some tickets. They won’t save any significant money by dealing him before the July 31st trade deadline either. He’s still the team’s top player as he can hit, run, and play defense while keeping himself in great shape. He could easily be an elite layer in the league for another five years.

Trading Wright looks to be a better option and his power means the Mets should get something decent in return. Reyes’ speed is more productive than Wright’s power at Citi Field, making the shortstop more valuable at this point.

The Mets don’t have a lot of time to make up their minds as the trade deadline will be here before they know it and Reyes is a hot commodity right now. If they aren’t in financial desperation, it’d be a good idea to keep him and try to add a good supporting cast through some shrewd managerial moves.