Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Resigning Reyes May Have No Effect On Mets Return To Relevancy

With the 2011 season having for all intents and purposes come to a close over the past two weeks, the Mets and their front office staff will begin to turn their attention of this upcoming off season. The Mets find themselves with several needs to address. While those needs may collectively outweigh the obvious, the success of this upcoming off season will most likely be decided by the potential retention or defection of Jose Reyes. My question is whether or not retaining Jose Reyes will effectively alter the organization's time frame for success, because with or without Reyes, no obvious plan seems in place.

Finding a catcher who is sound defensively and a better all-around choice at second base should be major priorities prior to the start of next season. Josh Thole's once bright future has dwindled over time as his struggles at the plate have been dwarfed by his struggles behind it. The Murphy/Turner/Harris experiment at second base has had little overall success. While Murphy and Turner have shown their value in the batter's box, they do not seem to be everyday options in the field.

Additionally, the team's outfield core is by no means set in stone going forward. Jason Bay, when not hurt, has struggled through the first half of his now clearly mistaken four year contract. Angel Pagan has taken steps backwards, showing little progress at the plate and often looking lost in the outfield. Finally, Lucas Duda seems to be the team's best option for 2012 in right field, but is by no means a mature major leaguer and often struggles mightily defensively. While each might be palatable in their own right, do they collectively make up the outfield of a contending ball club?

As if that wasn't enough, all of those concerns could really take a back seat to figuring out the team's pitching staff. First and foremost, the team still lacks an ace because there is no telling how effective Johan Santana will be when and if he eventually returns. The middle of the rotation options are still unproven as Dillon Gee's ceiling is still a mystery and R.A. Dickey, who admittedly has received minimal run support this year, seems to have regressed as well. In all reality, Jon Niese's progress is the only sure thing the organization can claim from the 2011 rotation.

How each of these needs is addressed will ultimately determine whether or not retaining Jose Reyes really matters. Should Reyes stay with the Mets, the organization will likely have committed $20 million annually to his cause. Will this leave enough in the Wilpon's wallet to go out and sign the players necessary to fill these holes or will the Mets have to wait to fill these needs from within? Better yet, would quality free agents want to come to Queens if there is no clear path to playoff baseball?

If the Mets have to, or even chose to wait for their prospects to mature, it could be 2014 or 2015 before the Mets' lineup and rotation are a threat to the rest of the division...and that's IF everyone arrive and matures on schedule. There is help on the horizon in the likes of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, but waiting on those prospects will have wasted the first two or more years of Jose's next contract. At that rate, it could be more advisable to seek other options at shortstop, because Jose will be running on thirty year old legs and be in the process of exiting his prime.

Jose Reyes is a great player, a perennial all-star and he is going to be nearly irreplaceable, but does retaining him really matter if the front office cannot build around him for the foreseeable future? This team needs the type of overhaul that cannot be completed through a repeat of last winter, when Sandy Alderson collected what should have been accessory players while sifting through the bargain bin of baseball free agency. Sandy and company must find a faster route to legitimacy or resigning Jose Reyes won't really matter because he will no longer be the game changer we see today.

The sad fact is, whether Jose stays or goes...the Mets may not be a playoff caliber baseball team for years to come. Such a realization really alters the urgency to resign Reyes. He alone cannot win a pennant and if the organization doesn't have the means necessary to add those additional pieces, they should simply let him walk and focus their resources elsewhere. It’s a sad fact.. but it might be reality.