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The Jose Reyes trade dilemma, Part I

Jose Reyes gestures to teammate Jason Bay after

Jose Reyes gestures to teammate Jason Bay after scoring on an RBI single by Bay during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. The Mets won 6-3. (May 6, 2011) Credit: AP

For Tuesday's Newsday, I produced a Mets inventory check,  based on the increasingly safe assumption that the Mets won't be in contention come July.

I listed the players in order of the buzz they're generating on the yakosphere (trademark Neil Best), and using that criteria, listing Jose Reyes first was a no-brainer.

I've read many good arguments - some from fellow media folk, some from readers with whom I communicate - about why the Mets should not trade Reyes this season. Nevertheless, I can think of only one good reason to retain him, and that's if the Mets mount a surprising playoff run.

In my mind, there are two distinct questions here concerning Reyes. The first is, "Should they trade him?" The second is,  "Should they commit to him long-term?" They intersect. But they are different questions.

So let's address the first question Tuesday, and the second one Wednesday. And the answer to the first one, again, is, "As long as they're not in the race? Absolutely."

If the Mets were so inclined, then Fred and Jeff Wilpon, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins could sit Reyes in a meeting room at Citi Field on, say, July 15 and deliver this speech:

"Jose, we think the world of you. We want you to spend your prime as a Met. We want you to reitre as a Met.

"But there really is no point in you hanging around here for the rest of the season. We're out of the race. Aren't you tired of playing out the string? We feel it's win-win if we trade you. You get to enjoy your first pennant race in a while, and you're gonna bring back some exciting young players in a trade.

"Really, by trading you, we're making ourselves more appealing to you come free agency. You want to win a World Series ring, and by trading you, we'll be closer to that goal than we are today.

"So go ahead to (Cincinnati, San Francisco, wherever), and have a great time. And we'll be waiting for you on the other side."

Is there precedent for such an arrangement? I can of two quasi-parallels: 

1) In spring training of 1997, the Indians traded Kenny Lofton to Atlanta. Lofton spent the '97 season with the Braves, then returned to the Indians as a free agent for the 1998 season.

2) In July of 2003, Baltimore traded Sidney Ponson to San Francisco. Then the Orioles signed Ponson the subsequent winter.

There's an obvious risk in this strategy. Reyes could fall in love with his new club. Or, he could play so well, including on a postseason platform, that he could raise his price to a prohibitive level for the Mets, whose owners might not be able to afford a huge commitment and whose general manager might be philosophically opposed to it, anyway.

We'll delve more into those issues Wednesday. For now, I think it's absolutely worth the risk of trading Reyes, given the return that should be coming.

Later today? A contest and a check-in from Yankee Stadium.

--UPDATE, 10:46 a.m.: Got two more examples of this "temporary separation" phenomenon on Twitter.

My buddy Mark Hale from the New York Post asked if Cliff Lee - traded by the Phillies, only to return to them a year later - qualified. I suppose it would, although I don't think the Phillies ever thought they would get Lee back.

And Rob Zloto asked about Mike Bordick, whom the Mets acquired from Baltimore to replace the injured Rey Ordonez in 2000 and who returned to the Orioles for 2001. Absolutely. A very good example.

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