Fred Wilpon can't seem to make a move. Dayton Moore has made every move possible. Both men are in frustrating positions concerning the same position on the field. And they might just have the solution that the other requires.
Wilpon, the majority owner of the New York Mets, faces a major decision with team icon Jose Reyes, who is having himself an MVP-caliber season. When healthy, Reyes is a constant force on the field and strong presence in the clubhouse, someone who fights to be in the line-up every day according to a recent Buster Olney column. The numbers, well, they speak for themselves. With a .339 average and .899 OPS, Reyes is on pace to hit 49 doubles and 30 triples while stealing over 50 bases. MVP numbers, indeed.
But therein lies the issue: this is Reyes' walk year. The four year extension he signed with an $11 million club option for 2011 expires after this current stat frenzy, and Wilpon earlier scoffed at paying a player Carl Crawford like money (142 million over 7 seasons) to anyone. The team is also not close to contention with several aging players, even more holes in the line-up, a rotation that needs a significant upgrade and a lacking farm system. There are definitely some pieces, but the Mets need to admit the future is brighter than the present and make the full commitment to rebuild.
If that's the case, the Mets simply cannot allow Reyes to walk this off-season. Every team with a hole in the middle infield will come calling (which pretty much means every ML team and half of AAA), and Reyes will easily be the greatest free agent available. To trade Reyes would be a major PR hit in mid-season, but even worse would be to allow such a dynamic force to leave with no compensation. Yet the team gaining Reyes has to know that he will test the waters of free agency, so it's difficult to set a price.
Enter the Kansas City Royals, who have been starting a black hole at shortstop since 1987. The offensive output from recent years has been abysmal up the middle for the Royals, including current SS Alcides Escobar, and there's no reason to believe future seasons will be any different than this one. Even Royals prized 2B prospect Christian Colon is having a hard time hitting with any substance at AA this season, with a .650 OPS. In other words, he's next in line to fill the coveted slots held by so many singles-hitting middle infielders before him.
That said, what if the Kansas City Royals traded for Jose Reyes? Immediately that's a stretch for a small market team who most believe will only compete in the future. The common belief seems to be that if the Royals achieve anything in 2011, it's simply a bonus and that instead it's all about getting some playing time for guys like Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy and continuing to inch forward. That's fine to stick to a perceived timeline of competing, but what if there's a brass ring to be had?
Jose Reyes is that brass ring. The Cleveland Indians are in a freefall at the top of the AL Central and typical powers like the Minnesota Twins are bringing up the rear. The White Sox and Detroit Tigers also have their questions and the division is more wide open than ever. KC's brightest days are still ahead and they will most likely be entering a competitive peak in 2013, but what if they staked a claim even now and brought some excitement to the team at the major league level.
After the recent ML Draft, the Royals are again loaded with another high ceiling haul led by Bubba Starling. The new draftees will be entering an already loaded farm system throughout the summer (as they are signed), and KC has several young assets to deal. The Mets, on the other hand, should receive something for Reyes before they let him walk and it's a team like the Royals that can match up well in terms of acquiring young talent to restock the farm system.
Before you ask why Dayton Moore would trade a more certain future for a questionable present, there's also no guarantee that the prospects will pan out. However, it's a near certainty that Reyes will continue to be a positive MVP-level force all season long because there's so much at stake for him. It's why Kelly Johnson went ballistic at 2B last year and why Jayson Werth did the same. There's too much money to be made to pout about being traded.
Imagine not only the positive PR spin KC fans would feel if they acquired Reyes but the impact on the team as well. A young line-up that will eventually feature Mike Moustakas this summer would bring in a dynamic clubhouse presence and spark on the field at the Royals single worst offensive position. It would bring some explosive energy on the basepaths, provide the same strong defense the pitching staff is used to and solidify a line-up that would suddenly look very potent. Heck, it's even possible a half-season in KC would show Reyes what the future could look like in the Midwest if he enjoyed it here.
As long as the price isn't so steep that it completely sidelines the Royals future plans for a half-season run at the AL Central this year, Jose Reyes is worth going for. The boon at the ticket office, the national media coverage, the on-field impact and the opportunity to impact the future core could all be positively affected. For the Mets, they have a partner in KC who could provide a decent haul rather than possibly lose a player outright.
If Wilpon can pony up the funds and keep Reyes, then more power to him. He's certainly worth keeping if you can after all. But if there's a chance he walks, Dayton Moore should consider an offer and have it ready in-hand.