Jose Reyes cools off before the start of the game...

Jose Reyes cools off before the start of the game against the Nationals at Nationals Park on Friday. (July 29, 2011) Credit: AP

Great column by David Lennon on Jose Reyes, and how the negotiating for his new deal started (unofficially) yesterday.

Every free agency has its own narrative, if you will. A backstory. Some are simple, some are not. But there's always an explanation behind the years and dollars that make up the final contract, and it's not always something that can be anticipated until we actually arrive in free agency.

Alex Rodriguez? His first deal, with Texas, was $252 million _ exactly twice the amount the Minnesota Timberwolves committed to Kevin Garnett _ and Rangers owner Tom Hicks regarded A-Rod as a franchise-changer. His second deal, $275 million with the Yankees, resulted from the Steinbrenner brothers, having just taken over the franchise, panicking after the departure of Joe Torre.

Jason Bay? His comparable contract was the deal that he actually accepted from the Red Sox in the summer of 2009 _ four years for $60 million _ before Boston failed Bay's physical. Little did the Mets, or anyone besides Bay and the Red Sox, realize that the Mets weren't competing against a standing Boston offer with those terms. The Red Sox offered only three guaranteed years at the end, as Rob Bradford reports in the linked story.

Kevin Brown? The comparable was the $13.33 million annual average value of Mo Vaughn's freshly signed deal with the Angels, which the Dogers _ sparked by their new owners, Fox _ blew out of the water. Notice, in the linked story, how Bud Selig's lieutenant Sandy Alderson strongly scolded the Dodgers for what turned out to be a decent contract. Brown gave the Dodgers three out of five ace-caliber years, one good year and one wasted year from 1999 through 2003 before the Dodgers dealt Brown to the Yankees.

So what will be Reyes' narrative? With him now going on the disabled list for a second time, that forecast gets a lot more cloudy.

Alderson, now the Mets' GM, publicly acknowledged the obvious yesterday, that Reyes is an amazing player when on the field but that, you know, he's struggling to stay on the field. Other teams surely are paying attention to the fact that, in Reyes' walk year - a time when, let's face it, many players make a concerted effort to showcase themselves - he still has to go on the disabled list twice.

Back in June, we talked about the idea of holding onto Reyes through the trade deadline and buying time. That's what Alderson did, and it's looking like a smart strategy. Suddenly, you don't hear as much chatter in the yakosphere (trademark Neil Best) about the notion that the Mets absolutely, positively have to re-sign Reyes, and that Mets fans will run for the hills if Reyes lands elsewhere this winter.

Now, the discussion centers more around, "Well, gosh, how much would you give this guy? How many years?" 

Alderson surely would be comfortable with fewer years and higher dollars, assuming ownership can pony up the higher dollars. But who, among the other 29 teams, might decide, "Ah, he's such a phenomental player when he's healthy, let's just go for it"?

For that matter, we have to consider the Mets' angle, how their motivations might evolve if, say, there's a new development in Irving PIcard's lawsuit against them; the latest had been that the Wilpons were feeling more confident about their chances. 

We need the season to play out before we can fully anticipate Reyes' free-agency narrative, and even once we get into negotiations, things obviously can change more. But we've seen just in the last month and a half how dramatically that backstory can change before reaching its conclusion.

--Have a great day.

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