The Mets can’t speak directly about Jose Reyes because as much as the Rockies want him gone, he’s still a member of their organization. But if you listened closely Tuesday to both Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson, there were plenty of signals, even without mentioning Reyes by name.
Collins talked about using square pegs for round holes in his lineup, which struggles mightily to manufacture runs when it doesn’t score them with one swing. The manager’s threat to “shake things up” after the Braves’ weekend sweep at Citi Field also proved hollow because of the lack of in-house options.
“It’s always nice to have another piece,” Collins said.
Alderson followed with a metaphor about “rearranging the deck chairs,” a nod to the Mets’ inability, at the moment, to do much more than activate Travis d’Arnaud from the disabled list for Tuesday night’s game against the Royals. Even when Alderson admitted that the Mets intend to hold a private workout for Yulieski Gourriel, the highly-touted Cuban third baseman, he did so by suggesting it was a potential future upgrade rather than an immediate fix.
Reyes, however, is scheduled to become a free agent Saturday. And if the Rockies are unable to negotiate a trade with another team before then, we’ve been told by people close to Reyes that he’ll practically sprint back to Flushing.
The biggest hurdle to a Reyes reunion is the Mets, but they’ve been warming to the idea since Saturday, when Newsday first reported the front office began to more seriously discuss the pros and cons of bringing him back. From a baseball perspective, the switch-hitting Reyes would bring desperately-needed speed with a better knack for getting on base than just about anyone currently on the roster. In addition, the Mets would only be responsible for a prorated amount of the major-league minimum salary, roughly $277,000.
The Mets could be a getting a useful player at a very low risk, which is why the lobby for acquiring Reyes is gaining momentum, even if people familiar with the club’s thinking wouldn’t characterize it as a slam dunk.
That’s because they’re still mulling whether or not Reyes is worthy of a second chance after being suspended 52 games for domestic-abuse allegations. But the Mets don’t seem opposed on principle alone, indicating they are willing to deal with that uglier side in an effort to help rehabilitate a former homegrown star. Speaking generally about such decisions, Alderson suggested that off-field behavior is a factor.
“We always evaluate talent and character,” Alderson said. “There’s a balance. So with respect to issues of character, those are things that we don’t ignore and are always taken into account when we make player-acquisition decisions.”
While Reyes has told people he’d be willing to try third base for a chance to rejoin the Mets — a position he could work on during a short tuneup at Triple-A Las Vegas — team officials have talked about moving Neil Walker to third and playing Reyes at second if that’s an easier transition. Obviously, Reyes would be a natural in the leadoff spot, where he has a career slash line of .292/.341/.435. When Walt Weiss, his former Rockies manager, was asked Tuesday if Reyes could switch to third, he didn’t foresee any issue.
“As far as the skill-set, I think he’d be fine doing it,” Weiss said before Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. “He’s still a good player. He could certainly help.”
Just as Reyes became more prominent on the Mets’ radar, Alderson displayed more enthusiasm Tuesday for doing his “due diligence” on Gourriel. But the Mets could roll the dice on Reyes as soon as this weekend, and if the reunion doesn’t work out, either get in the bidding for Gourriel or work on another trade before the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline. Reyes is a bargain compared to the $50-million plus Gourriel may command, and that’s what initially makes him more attractive.
“You never really know whether the addition of one player or the ignition of one player — who gets hot — changes things dramatically,” Alderson said of his recent moves. “It certainly could happen.”