ATLANTA — Jose Reyes isn’t in a Mets uniform yet. And until 1 p.m. Saturday, when he’s expected to be released by the Rockies and become a free agent, teams can’t even broach contract terms with him.
Yet Mets manager Terry Collins spoke of Reyes in unusually candid terms on Friday, as if he already were under team control. Collins acknowledged that he and his coaching staff have discussed how they would use Reyes should he sign with his old team — the latest indication of a reunion that now appears inevitable.
“It’s the old ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ kind of thing,” Collins said. “We’ve talked as a staff about if he happens to come here, where would he play? How would he fit? Where would we hit him? How much would he play?”
Reyes is coming off a 52-game suspension under baseball’s policy against domestic violence, and it’s unclear exactly what the 33-year-old former batting champ still brings to the table as a player. But the idea of bringing back Reyes has only gained momentum, as first reported by Newsday.
As Collins spoke on Friday, a reunion with Reyes sounded like less a question of if and more a question of when.
“Again, we have nothing that’s etched in stone because he’s not here,” Collins said. “But it’s like everything else: Even though they’re not here, you’ve got to have some kind of a plan in mind when he does get here, especially at this particular time.”
A source said Friday that the Mets’ pursuit of Reyes will have no bearing on their interest in Cuban star Yulieski Gourriel.
The Mets have reached out to Reyes’ representatives to discuss interest in a signing, a source said, though by rule, no terms can be discussed until 1 p.m. Saturday. Of course, it’s a moot point, with the Rockies on the hook for the $41 million remaining on Reyes’ contract. The Mets or any other team interested in Reyes’ services would pay only the prorated major-league minimum for the rest of the season, which is roughly $277,000.
As for what the Mets’ coaching staff discussed, Collins said, “We’re going to keep our options all open.” He left open the possibility of keeping Reyes in one position — such as third base — or having him bounce around. Collins even broached the idea of trying him in the outfield, convinced that he still has enough speed to attempt the transition.
Unsurprisingly, the Mets also discussed using Reyes in the leadoff spot. Since his departure, the Mets have not had a player who was more naturally suited to bat atop the lineup.
In 69 games with the Blue Jays last year, Reyes hit .285 with 16 stolen bases. That production dropped off badly with his trade to a non-contender, as he hit only .259 with the Rockies.
Reyes has made it clear to people close to him that he’d welcome a return to New York. He still maintains a home in Old Brookville.
“One of the things that probably caught my imagination was his joy of playing in New York,” said Collins, who managed Reyes at the end of his Mets tenure in 2011. “He loved it. That’s why he moved there.”
Collins raved about Reyes’ skills at the height of his powers and how his demeanor made him “a joy to be around.” He added that Reyes is the same guy “if it works out.”
Then the manager seemed to catch himself.
Said Collins: “He’s not here yet.”