8:00 PM ET – St. Louis (2) vs. Los Angeles (0) – Adam Wainwright (6.2 rWAR) vs. Hyun-jin Ryu (3.3 rWAR)
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In a post last week at Sportsnet, Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote about the Jays’ evolving core of players, and mentioned the name of Jose Reyes. He went as far as openly wondering about how far the Jays could choose to go to reshape their core into a group more capable of winning, and quoted Alex Anthopoulos as saying that nobody on his team has a no-trade clause.
What he didn’t do, however, was suggest that the Jays will specifically consider trading Reyes this winter, except in as much as he said that they would, in general, consider trading anybody if it made the team better. But why should that stop the New York media for pining for their shortstop back?
Here’s Mets beat writer Howard Megdal, writing for Capital New York:
It’s nearly the off-season, which means it’s time for Jose Reyes to move to a new team again. The Blue Jays, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith, will consider dealing him this winter.
I’ve written here before that he ought to be on the New York Mets. I wrote it when he was still a Met, I wrote itonce he stopped being a Met, I wrote it last year after the Marlins dealt him to the Blue Jays, and I still feel that way.
. . .
A normal team could approach this two ways: either by offering the Jays very little in talent, and agreeing to take on Reyes’ full salary, or by offering a solid prospect return, and having the Jays take on a great deal of the remaining salary.
Whether the Mets can do the former is anything but certain, given their financial constraints and need to resolve their debt situation. But if Jeff Wilpon’s words about being ready to invest meant anything, it’s hard to think of a better way than putting little more than money into dramatically improving the team’s shortstop situation while simultaneously reuniting the team with one of its most popular players, ever. There are fans, and I am among them, who would probably put up with an offseason that did little else to improve the club, simply for the chance to watch Jose Reyes every day again.
But: since Wilpon’s words haven’t meant anything for nearly five years, there’s still another way to potentially do this, and that’s be dealing starting pitching to the Jays for Reyes. A deal involving, for instance, Jon Niese, Rafael Montero and another prospect could be enticing enough to the Blue Jays to cover most of Jose Reyes’ salary.
There’s huge risk in doing this, with pitching inherently fragile. Still, the payoff, one of the best shortstops in baseball for, say, $5 million per season, is big.
For the Mets to get Reyes at just $5-million per year in such a deal, the Jays would end up paying them $62-million, plus another $21.65-million guaranteed to Jon Niese for 2014 to 2016. In other words: in this fantasy scenario the Jays end up paying slightly more for three years of Niese (they’d hold potentially tasty $10- and $11-million options for 2017 and 2018 as well), than they would for four years of Jose Reyes.
Granted, that’s ages 27 through 29 for Niese, compared to 31 through 34 for Reyes, and with a couple prospects thrown in (no, not Syndergaard), maybe this hypothetical works a little bit better than I want to believe it does. But… uh… no, I don’t think it does. Obviously.
I mean, even if you believe that they’re bound to be similarly valuable players for the duration of their deals, there are still issues here– obvious ones, most of you are probably saying. For one, Reyes has been so coveted by Alex Anthopoulos for so long that it’s hard to see him actually looking to this route to improve his club over the winter. Meanwhile, the Jays don’t have nearly the middle infield depth to make up for his loss, as opposed to in the rotation, where Niese– who by Baseball Reference was worth less than a single win this season (1.6 by FanGraphs), and just 3.9 WAR over the three years previous (FanGraphs has him at 6.3 wins over the span)– just isn’t quite the kind of upgrade the club would be desperate enough for to make such a swap.
If the Jays had a shortstop ready to move in and a rotation that was even thinner from the three spot down, it may even make sense, strange as it may seem. Even the fact that, while it doesn’t, it can’t be immediately dismissed out of hand either, should give us some insight– if we didn’t already know from last year’s crazy price for R.A. Dickey– into just how much it will take for the club to actually get themselves anything resembling an ace. [Hint: if we seriously believe Medgal's framework is plausible-- and I'm not saying we necessarily do-- and that taking back enough salary to reduce Reyes's deal to $5-million per year gets you something in the neighbourhood of Niese, let's maybe stop right now with all the fantasy about some outrageous haul for Jose Bautista and his deal, OK?]
It also shows us just how highly regarded Jose Reyes is, and should serve to remind us how lucky we are that we get to see him play every day– or, at least, every day that he’s able to get himself onto the field. That only happened 93 times this season, which made for the second-lowest amount since his first full season back in 2005– a number that flies somewhat in the face of the “injury-prone” tag he’s often hit with. In fact, he’s played fewer than 126 games in just two of the nine seasons since thigh issues and a broken leg derailed him in 2004.
Of course, 126 ain’t 162, and the Rogers Centre turf may eventually catch up to him– especially if they keep the current, shitty, mangled rug in place while waiting for the Argos to sort their shit out– but so far so good. Plus, at least according to the eye test, Reyes appeared to be gaining range as the 2013 season went on and the ankle injury became a more distant memory, and over those 93 contests he posted a wOBA above his career average, and a league- and park-adjusted wRC+ of 114, which topped three of his previous four seasons.
Reyes is a switch hitter, though, and there could be some concern to his split as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching, in which this season he posted his worst numbers since 2005. However, we’re talking about a sample of just 101 plate appearances, and a guy who was generally as high quality at the plate as he always is, who didn’t miss a beat moving from the NL to the AL, and who could very possibly add to his value going forward, depending on how much the ankle injury limited him on the base paths and in the field (where, according to the metrics on both at FanGraphs, he was well below career his career norms).
It was an abysmal season for the club, but let’s not forget that, when it comes to our shortstop, the Jays are the envy of baseball. Or, at the very least, the American League. At least until Manny Machado moves to his natural position, or maybe once Xander Bogaerts really breaks out.
But still! They’re in a much better position than Megdal seems to believe. There’s just so little merit to the notion of moving him, saving no money, and acquiring a decent enough pitcher whose next 200 inning season will be his first, that it’s hard to take seriously. After getting just a taste of what he can do this season, I’m pretty sure that if the Jays are looking to move one of their core players for pitching this winter, they’re certainly going to be looking elsewhere.