Reyes must wait for new contract

The Mets have to decide whether to sign The Mets have to decide whether to sign shortstop Jose Reyes to a long-term deal after picking the $11 million option on the last year of his current contract. (Sept. 18, 2010) Photo Credit: David Pokress

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - With Jose Reyes heading into the walk year of his contract, general manager Sandy Alderson said Tuesday that he planned to talk with the shortstop about his murky future with the Mets.

That discussion, however, is not expected to include negotiations for a new deal, and Alderson has no intention to open those talks before Opening Day.

"It's unlikely," Alderson said.

When pushed on the possibility of exploring an extension during the season - something the Mets rarely have done - the GM did not rule it out. But he wasn't overly enthusiastic, either.

"It's not something I've ever ruled out as a policy," Alderson said. "To the extent that things get to be a distraction, I guess you might have to address that distraction. But as a policy, that's not something I've ruled out. That's not something I wouldn't necessarily do."

Reyes said numerous times during the winter that he preferred to wait until after the season to discuss a deal, and given his injury history, there is obviously a risk to that approach. But Reyes also has the potential for a big reward, especially after seeing Carl Crawford sign his seven-year, $142-million contract with the Red Sox in December.

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Alderson has shown little appetite for such megadeals. During the winter meetings, he made fun of the Nationals for giving Jayson Werth $126 million over seven years, and the GM repeatedly has questioned the wisdom of long-term contracts.

But that's exactly what Reyes will be looking for as he plays out his $11-million option this season. Many believed that the Mets got a bargain by signing Reyes to a five-year, $23.25-million contract in 2006 - and that his agent, Peter Greenberg, undersold him. As it turned out, Reyes hedged his bets, got the guaranteed millions and now will hit free agency at the age of 28 with the potential for a huge payoff.

That's not an ideal scenario for the Mets, who not only have a GM mindful of cutting payroll, but an ownership group that is facing a lawsuit that potentially could reach $1 billion in the wake of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Alderson denies his hands will be tied by that financial nightmare, but no one really knows what the extent of that damage will be.

Just as the Mets face their own uncertainty, the X factor with Reyes is his health. He was limited to 133 games last season because of a spring-training hyperthyroid condition followed by an oblique strain. In 2009, Reyes played in just 36 games when a nagging strain of his hamstring tendon led to a full hamstring muscle tear that required offseason surgery.

The one constant in the Reyes equation is his elite talent, and the market value for that will be astronomical if he puts up his typical numbers over a full season. When Alderson was asked his opinion on what a healthy Reyes can do, the GM gave a measured response, perhaps mindful of how much the words could cost him later in the year.

"That depends, I guess, on your definition of healthy," Alderson said. "He's definitely the kind of impact player that can make a huge difference. But it's a matter of being the whole package. It's the on-base percentage. It's the defense. It's the stolen bases. It's the little bit of power that he has. It's the whole package that you're looking for.

"In any given year, some of it shows up stronger than others, and that's true for any player, not just Jose. So we'll see how it goes, I know he's motivated, so that's good for us."

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