David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Mounting injuries, fewer trade chips and a recently sputtering offense have raised a number of serious questions about the Mets’ ability to leapfrog the Nationals in the NL East this season.
So here’s another one: Should they take a little more time to think about bringing back Jose Reyes?
It’s a very complicated and extremely volatile suggestion, we know. The Rockies wanted nothing to do with Reyes after he served a 52-game suspension for domestic abuse allegations and designated him for assignment Wednesday, giving them 10 days to trade or release him.
Shortly afterward, the Mets’ immediate response, unofficially through back channels, was they were not interested in a reunion. But what if Reyes ultimately is released next week, leaving the Rockies on the hook for the $41 million left on his contract?
That means Reyes, a once beloved figure in Flushing, could be had for the prorated portion of the MLB minimum salary, which comes out to roughly $277,000 for the rest of this season. Also, he would be free to sign with any team, and in talking with people close to Reyes — a Long Island resident — the Mets have to be his runaway favorite.
With David Wright likely gone for the season after Thursday’s surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, the Mets’ infield could be a fluid situation hinging on the performance of Wilmer Flores, who was forced to leave Thursday’s game with a left wrist contusion after being hit by a pitch. Additionally, Juan Lagares was placed on the DL with a sprained left thumb.
Reyes is primarily a shortstop, but has played second, and we’ve been told he’d consider third if that was in the mix. A year ago, the switch-hitting Reyes batted .285 with 16 stolen bases in 69 games as the leadoff hitter for the AL East-leading Blue Jays. Stunned by the trade to last-place Colorado, however, Reyes slumped to .259 with a .291 on-base percentage.
If there is any place that could rejuvenate Reyes, 33, it would be Citi Field, with spacious outfield gaps that cater to his speed on the basepaths, something the Mets sorely lack. And if he’s deemed worthy of a second chance, despite the ugly allegations, Reyes’ best shot at a comeback may be his former home.
That’s no small obstacle. When Reyes was accused of battery and arrested on Halloween in Hawaii, based on a complaint by his wife and her visible injuries, we insisted that MLB come down hard to show their new domestic violence policy had teeth. Even though Reyes’ wife later refused to cooperate with prosecutors, thereby dropping the case, the commissioner’s office still suspended Reyes for what amounted to 52 games — a penalty that cost him $7 million.
Is that enough of a punishment? That’s open for debate. The larger issue then becomes whether Reyes deserves to resume his playing career, or for another team to invest in his darkly stained career. Some feel strongly he should not.
“The Colorado Rockies should be applauded for taking a strong stance against domestic violence and immediately taking steps to sever ties with shortstop and domestic abuser Jose Reyes,” Karin Roland, Chief Campaigns Officer for the women’s rights group UltraViolet, said Thursday in a statement. “The Rockies know that their fans do not want to cheer for a domestic abuser, and so do the Mets. We hope that other teams will also choose to stand against domestic violence by refusing to associate their organizations, or their fans — with Reyes.”
The team that does choose to employ Reyes — and one undoubtedly will if he’s available at such a discounted price — must give him ample opportunity to apologize publicly and ask for forgiveness. The Yankees made the controversial trade for Aroldis Chapman while he was facing domestic violence allegations — including repeatedly firing a handgun at a garage wall — and he returned from a 30-game suspension to a more favorable greeting than we expected.
There is no erasing what Reyes did. But perhaps, after further reflection, the Mets in helping themselves could assist in a rehabilitation effort far more important than baseball.