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Davidoff: Mets should keep options open on Reyes

Jose Reyes forces out Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley

Jose Reyes forces out Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley and turns a double play in the sixth inning at Citi Field. (Sept. 12, 2010) Credit: John Dunn

As turbulence brings down another Mets season to a quiet, scarcely witnessed landing, you can witness the powers that be setting aside two crates: One marked "Keep," the other "Discard."

Jose Reyes knows where he wants to be.

"This is the only team I've played for in my career," the shortstop said yesterday before the Mets' 3-0 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field. "I don't want to go anywhere. This is the team that gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues. I want to be here. I've got my house here. My family's here.

"So I don't want to go anywhere, but at the same time, I understand this is a business. I don't know what's going to happen.

"There's a lot of young talent here. I think we can put together a very good ballclub here. I can see that."

As per the agreement they signed with Reyes in 2006, the Mets have an $11-million team option (against a $500,000 buyout) on 2011 for the three-time All-Star.

So here's what the Mets should do, after they attempt (and probably fail) to sign Reyes to an extension with a lower annual salary than the $11 million:

Create a third crate. Call it "To Be Determined." Put Reyes' name there.

This will go down as an odd year for Reyes, with a positive undertone. As he discussed with a smile and shake of his head Sunday, he began the season faced with the career-long questions about his legs, coming off surgery on the hamstring tendon behind his right knee. His legs were fine. But his right oblique troubled him enough to shut him down for three multiple-day bouts, which is why he has played in only 102 games.

Throw in the thyroid condition that ruined his spring training, and you can perhaps understand why Reyes said, "I don't want to make any excuses, but I didn't play too much last year. I almost missed the whole year. Then all of spring training [this year]. It's not easy to come back and put everything together right away."

Nope, and after going 1-for-4 against Philadelphia's Roy Oswalt, he has a .316 on-base percentage and .419 slugging percentage. Discounting the .395 slugging percentage he put up in his injury-shortened 2009 (only 36 games), those would rank as his worst such rate statistics since 2005.

Yet it would be foolhardy to ignore how good he has looked at times this season. After all, those numbers come with the qualifier that he produced a brutal .267 OBP and .289 SLG in his first 32 games.

Here's what one scout (who recently has seen Reyes play) said about him, on condition of anonymity: "He looks very good. His swing as a lefthanded hitter is more level again. He's covering the plate. He's running very well. He looks healthy on both sides of the ball. There's a bounce in his step."

The low on-base percentage reflects that he hasn't walked much, 26 times in 524 plate appearances. In 2008, he walked 66 times in 688 plate appearances. "That's something I need to work on, because that's a big part of my game," he said. "I don't know what happened there."

He'll spend this winter focusing on his entire body, although, as he said, "I have to strengthen my oblique." Jerry Manuel, who won't actually be involved in such decisions, said that the 2011 Mets should try to rest Reyes more often, in order to preserve him.

Before 2010 runs out, though, the Mets should float Reyes' name in trade discussions and see what sort of response they get. If an offer is tempting enough, they should pull the trigger. If not, then they should ride out Reyes' free-agent season and see how it plays out.

His health is in question, his talent less so. At a time when they desperately need to make smart decisions, the Mets should stay flexible on Reyes' future.

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