As Hot Stove simmers around Reyes, Mets wait
Talks not likely to progress during General Managers Meetings
MILWAUKEE -- After a frenetic start, the pursuit of Jose Reyes has cooled somewhat -- if not completely stalled -- for various teams in the mix.
With lead agent Peter Greenberg traveling internationally this week and not attending the General Managers Meetings here, it appears unlikely that talks for the free-agent shortstop will soon progress to any significant degree.
That, of course, has not precluded general managers from hoping, gauging and speculating on one of this year's most coveted free-market targets. Loudest have been the Marlins, who were relatively outspoken last week in divulging the details of the star shortstop's visit to Miami. And they've reportedly offered Reyes a six-year, $90 million deal.
The Mets, without revealing their own intentions, took note.
"I don't want to give you the false impression that we or they are anywhere along a road," said general manager Sandy Alderson. "I still think it's early, notwithstanding all the background noise from the last week."
That noise included the Marlins dining Reyes in South Beach, taking him on a tour of their new retractable-roof ballpark and reportedly making him a formal offer. Since then, speculation linking Reyes to the Marlins has clouded baseball's Hot Stove.
Certainly, such talk does not eliminate the Mets, who have spoken with the Reyes camp since his Miami visit and who -- as long as the bidding remains in the neighborhood of four to five years at around $20 million per season -- continue to be players for the shortstop. It simply means that the competition to retain him may be fierce.
For example: also discussing Reyes is Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who recently checked in with Greenberg but did not exchange contract figures and is undecided about continuing his pursuit. Milwaukee has expressed similar interest in fellow free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, and may not ultimately have the budget to acquire Reyes.
As for other potential suitors, none have admitted their intentions. To date, the shortstop's representatives have held firm to their policy of avoiding comment, causing the rumor mill to grow somewhat stale.
The Marlins, meanwhile -- who were so public in their pursuit last week -- made no noise upon touching down in Wisconsin. President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest arrived at The Pfister Hotel early Monday evening but did not publicly discuss Reyes or any other topic.
Still, the implications are hard to ignore. If Miami does acquire the shortstop, it would represent something of a worst-case scenario for New York: in addition to seeing one of their most popular players defect to a division rival, the Mets might not even receive top-tier compensation for his departure. Though questions remain regarding the issue of compensation in Major League Baseball's new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Mets are operating under the assumption that, at least this winter, old rules will apply. That means that if the previously non-contending Marlins sign Reyes, a Type A free agent, the Mets will receive a sandwich-round Draft pick next June instead of a first-round selection.
Asked about that possibility, Alderson deferred to popular opinion.
"I don't think Jose ending up anywhere outside of the borough of Queens is ideal," he said.
For now, the Mets can do little but wait and see how the market unfolds. Alderson contacted Greenberg earlier this offseason, and again recently -- "It's been amicable to this point," he said -- and he expects to continue his discussions throughout the next month. As is the case with most prominent free agents, the Mets do not expect a resolution before December's Winter Meetings in Dallas, at the earliest.
In the interim, New York will continue its pursuit of bullpen help and starting pitching depth, two other areas of need. Given the likelihood that the Mets will ultimately sign a cheap or rehabbing closer with end-game experience, agent Paul Kinzer said Monday that he "could see" the Mets pursuing former Twins and Nationals closer Matt Capps, who is coming off a down year.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Alderson sounded doubtful that the Mets will re-sign starting pitcher Chris Capuano, who is reportedly seeking a multiyear deal after proving his health last season.
"I wouldn't say definitely," Alderson said of Capuano, whose injury history prompted him to sign an incentive-laden one-year contract last winter. "But I know one thing that we have to be aware of here is that ... we not get too carried away with the relationship going forward."
Without citing names, Alderson alluded to the previous Mets regime inking veterans such as Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez to long-term deals after they enjoyed modest initial successes in New York. Similar mistakes this offseason could cripple a franchise with little financial margin for error.
Of course, the balance sheet in New York remains quite dependent on Reyes, who, if re-signed, would eat up the majority of Alderson's uncommitted payroll. And so for now, the Mets -- like everyone else around baseball -- will simply continue to wonder and wait.