By Mike Steffanos
All spring and into the early part of the season I've been reading over and over again about how the Mets needed to sell off their veteran assets to stock up their farm system. The Post's Joel Sherman has been hitting that theme quite hard.
As the Mets continue to struggle south of the .500 mark I suppose it was inevitable that the time had come for this type of column, again by Sherman. Yes, the same writer who has constantly preached the theme that the Mets needed to face reality and stage a fire sale to restock their system now tells us that we shouldn't expect to receive much in return.
Look, in the case of Jose Reyes, it certainly does remain to be seen how much value he would command. It would probably take a team that views Reyes as the missing piece of the puzzle -- the player that can push them over the top. Whether that team is out there with the combination of need, want and the prospects to make the deal is very much an open question.
I've never pretended to be a genius, but I've said all along that the smartest move with Reyes if the Mets can't resign him is to keep him all season anyway and take the two draft picks. That would certainly be preferable to anything comparable to the walk-year deals Sherman cites in this article (Teixeira from Atlanta to the Angels and Matt Holliday from the A's to the Cardinals). Those two high draft picks are likely to represent more potential talent for the Mets farm system than actually trading Reyes.
It's possible that a team might lose a shortstop and get a little desperate, but even then it would probably require Reyes to be willing to negotiate a contract extension with that club to get a haul back of equal or greater value than those two high picks.
Of course, if the Mets want to really alienate their fans they could decide to trade Reyes for a lesser return in order to save what's left on his $11 million contract this season. I know they're strapped for cash, but that would be a really bad move. There is so little trust between the fan base and ownership right now as it is.
Of course, some are suggesting that the Mets might resign Reyes and trade David Wright. Adam Rubin has a good piece on this possible scenario on ESPN.com. He explains why he doesn't believe keeping both is likely in a blog post here.
Given the payroll parameters Rubin lays out, it does seem unlikely that the Mets can commit over $70 million to Reyes, Wright, Santana and Jason Bay next season -- and Bay and Santana are virtually untradeable right now. I only wish that the Omar Minaya regime had been more realistic about where they were as a team when they added Santana and especially Bay. I've got nothing against either player, but I doubt either of them will provide anything like value in return for the money invested in them.
Santana is slated to make $24.5 million next year and $25.5 mil in 2013. There's a $25 million club option with a $5.5 million buyout in 2014. He's had major shoulder surgery, and I wonder if he'll be anything close to an ace when he returns -- whenever that is. You can only hope.
Bay is under contract through 2013, earning $16 million both years. He also has a club option for 2014 -- $17 million with a $3 million buyout. In 544 AB with the Mets he's got 24 doubles, 8 HR and 57 RBI. His slugging percentage is .379 over that span. What team would want Jason Bay in a deal right now that would relieve the Mets of any salary? You just need to cross your fingers and hope he finds it again. I guess it's possible if he gets hot for a couple of months and looks like the pre-NY Bay he might be tradable, but that seems less likely every day.
So, anyway, if David Wright is the one to be traded -- given that he is under contract for 2012 with a club option for 2013, those two years' worth of control should be worth some prospects, right?
Not so fast, according to Joel Sherman again:
Wright ... is elevated by being with a New York team. He is looked at as a better player here than he is around the baseball landscape. Now there also is fear over the condition of Wright's back and if, at 28, he is trending the wrong way. The general consensus I get when I ask outside teams about David Wright is, very good player, but would be best served if he were the third- or fourth-best player in the lineup and not asked to hit third.
Of course, the Mets would get offers for Wright. There certainly are organizations that feel that he has been overwhelmed by the combination of Citi Field's size and the seemingly ceaseless Mets problems. He is just 28. But the reality is that even interested teams are going to make offers based on who Wright is and not what he might become liberated from the Mets.
So again, although Sherman was arguing for a fire sale since spring training, he now argues that Wright doesn't have real value.
While Sherman makes some valid points I think he overstates the negatives. While Wright can be streaky and strikes out too much, the idea that he is only suited to be the third- or fourth-best player in a lineup is ludicrous. I only wish I rooted for a team with that kind of lineup.
The idea that players get overrated because they play in New York doesn't ring true to me, either. I think there is a perception around the league that New York players get overrated that actually leads to the phenomenon of underrating them.
For example, I listened to some talking head argue recently that Reyes isn't among the best shortstops in baseball. He actually thought Jimmy Rollins was a better player, despite the fact that Rollins hasn't had a good offensive season since 2007. Over the past two seasons Rollins' numbers are comparable to Bay's numbers despite playing his home games in a bandbox. Nothing against Rollins, but I wouldn't make a Reyes for Rollins deal even if you threw in a couple of Philly Steak sandwiches.
Honestly, if Reyes didn't play in New York I think he would be more respected around baseball, and the same with Wright.
By the way, at FoxSports.com Ken Rosenthal makes the argument that the Mets should try to keep both players. I understand the payroll obstacles involved, but that's exactly what I would do.
To my mind, if the Mets can get Reyes to sign for 5 years they should do it, and figure out a way to keep Wright. If they plan to be truly competitive again in 2013 they could do worse than rebuild a team around those two still young stars who have already proven they can play here along with Ike Davis. I only wonder why Ken Rosenthal seems to be the rare voice out there in the world of baseball punditry suggesting this. Maybe it's just not controversial enough to espouse a strategy that makes so much sense.