DALLAS -- The next triple Jose Reyes hits at Citi Field, with his signature dreadlocks flying as he circles the bases, will be in a Marlins uniform.
After spending the last 12 years in the Mets' organization, Reyes chose to leave the only team he has ever known for NL East rival Miami after agreeing to a six-year, $106-million contract Sunday night, according to a person familiar with the situation.
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The day the Mets were bracing for this offseason finally arrived yesterday morning when the team was informed that the Marlins had improved their offer to six years and more than $100 million. As soon as that happened, Reyes essentially was through with the Mets, and club officials were told as much by his representatives, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Sandy Alderson spoke in generalities during his news conference Sunday night but did admit the Mets never made a formal offer to Reyes. They would go no higher than five years for roughly $80 million, with incentives that could push it above $90 million and even close to $100 million with a vesting option for a sixth year, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.
"You have to draw the line somewhere," Alderson said, "and based on our experience not just with Jose but with multiyear contracts generally, and not just with our multiyear contracts but all multiyear contracts generally, we decided that there was some conceptual limitations to where we would go."
It hardly was surprising, given the Mets' well-documented financial woes and ownership's desire to slash payroll for the 2012 season. While the Mets publicly said they wanted Reyes back, it had to be at their price, which ultimately was far too low for the four-time All-Star coming off a batting title. Alderson also admitted the Mets lost $70 million last season, which had to affect their plans for Reyes. "I really don't think Madoff has that much to do with this," Alderson said. "But when a team loses $70 million irrespective of Bernie Madoff or anyone else, that's probably a bigger factor in our approach to this season and the next couple."
With Reyes' history of leg problems and after two hamstring injuries this past season, the front office did not feel comfortable guaranteeing him six years and $100-plus million.
When healthy, Reyes is the most dangerous leadoff hitter in the game and an excellent defensive shortstop with a rifle arm. But the injury risk is part of the package with him, and the Mets could not ignore that in discussing a potential offer. Reyes, 28, played a career-high 161 games in 2005, but in the six seasons since then, he has averaged 127 games.
In the first half of last season, Reyes played like the front-runner for the NL MVP, batting .354 with 15 triples, 30 stolen bases and 65 runs in 80 games.
But that pace slowed dramatically in the second half as he was bothered by hamstring issues. Even when he returned to the lineup, he admitted to protecting his legs. He hung on to win the batting title but had only nine steals in 46 games.
"I'm not conceding anything with respect to 2012," Alderson said. "We're here for the next four days to figure out how to put the best possible team we can on the field for 2012. The Diamondbacks didn't concede anything about 2011, the Cardinals didn't concede anything about the month of September. Stuff happens in baseball."