Posted: Wednesday May 25, 2011 11:51AM ; Updated: Thursday May 26, 2011 8:53PM
Jon Heyman
Jon Heyman>DAILY SCOOP

No sign Reyes wants Crawford money, but Mets star will get paid

Story Highlights

Owner Fred Wilpon said Jose Reyes wants 'Carl Crawford money' in free agency

Crawford signed with the Boston Red Sox last winter for $142M over seven years

Five executives offered guesses on what Reyes will make that varied widely

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Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes has raised his average 32 points from last year and is already more than halfway to his 2010 stolen base total.
US Presswire

It was funny how when the suddenly quotable Mets owner Fred Wilpon chose to criticize Jose Reyes, Wilpon appears to have set up a scenario involving Reyes that has no known basis in fact. The Mets' longtime owner claimed in his now infamous interview in The New Yorker magazine that Reyes, the Mets star shortstop whose contract runs out at season's end, wanted "Carl Crawford money,'' and went on to opine that Reyes "won't get it.''

Maybe it's hard to blame Wilpon for expecting the worst the way these past few years have gone for his beloved team, but there is zero evidence that Reyes ever told the Mets or anyone else he wanted or sought the deal Crawford got last winter from the Red Sox, which was $142 million over seven seasons. Or even that Reyes would ever even dream of asking for that big a deal.

There have been no substantive negotiations between Reyes and the Mets, as the Mets' new baseball regime, led by general manager Sandy Alderson, told Reyes over the winter that they wanted to see him play awhile before making any decisions about him. That seemed like a reasonable decision at the time, and the always-upbeat Reyes didn't complain about it. So now that Reyes is playing superbly -- he's batting .314 and has 17 stolen bases -- Wilpon apparently imagines the worst.

Or just as likely, Wilpon is merely is getting an early start on explaining why their Mets won't be signing their best and most beloved player long-term.

If the Mets somehow outplay their expectations and injuries and remain in the race, they will very likely keep Reyes for the extent of the 2011 season. But if it wasn't clear before Wilpon went on his interview tour -- after criticizing Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran, three trouble-free players in the lengthy New Yorker piece, Wilpon suggested to Tom Verducci in Sports Illustrated that he may well cut payroll by 30 percent to about $100 million, which would leave no room for Reyes -- it is now known that Reyes will almost surely play the 2012 season in another uniform.

Reyes, accurately described by one of his handlers as a happy-go-lucky sort, seemed barely affected by Wilpon's uncharacteristically unkind words. That's just how Reyes is (he blithely failed to pick up when Mets COO Jeff Wilpon made a same-day, make-good phone call; Jeff Wilpon reached out to all of the wronged three). And yesterday, Reyes had this to say to Mets writers about Fred Wilpon without a hint of upset, "He's the boss. He can say whatever he wants to.''

But, in a way, the Mets' owner may actually have done Reyes a favor by setting up the false premise that Crawford is the comp. It can't hurt if more folks start believing it, though so far that hasn't happened. Five competing baseball executives interviewed about Reyes' value as a free agent ran the gamut on their guesses for Reyes' eventual take, from $45 million for three years to about $108 million for six. No one knows where finances go when a dynamic player at a premium position hits the free-agent market. But not one person mentioned Crawford's deal. Or even came close to it.

A couple of the execs said they actually favor Reyes over Crawford, but they also apparently considered the injury history that Fred Wilpon stressed in his New Yorker quote ("he's had everything wrong with him,'' he said, unflatteringly). Said one American League executive: "I've always liked Reyes more. Switch-hitter. More important position. Younger. More explosive.''

While a case could be made that Reyes, still only 27, is the more impactful player when healthy, and shortstop is a more important position than left field, the executives all suggested that Reyes' past physical issues will affect his eventual haul. The job of the executives is to look at what could keep the price down, and free agency isn't always so logical. Besides, Reyes' history of injuries (he had hamstring and calf injuries and a thyroid problem) may only add up to a string bad luck as they are hardly chronic issues and may not foretell the future. But all added up, according to these five execs, they still knock Reyes down a peg to several pegs below the 29-year-old Crawford (who, incidentally, hasn't played yet like he deserves his contract, either, batting just .212 with two home runs).

The guesses for Reyes were for three years for $45 million, four years for $60 million, five years for $80-to-90 million, "at least $100 million,'' and six years and about $108 million. The person who suggested $80-to-90 million saw Torii Hunter and Adrian Beltre as the fair comps. That one and the two guesses in the nine-figure range may be the most realistic in that Reyes impacts both sides of the ball, is as exciting and energetic player as there is when healthy and free-agent shortstops like him just don't often hit the market. Still, Crawford's deal seems nothing short of pie-in-the-sky at this point.

The guesses may be hurt by the history of free-agent shortstops, as no one comparable besides past-his-prime Derek Jeter has hit the market in recent years. Rafael Furcal got $39 million over three years from the Dodgers after the 2005 season. The very upper echelon shortstops, such as the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki and the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez, have signed long-term deals with their original teams, as did the Yankees' Jeter when in his prime. The other factor playing in Reyes' favor is that several teams could use a shortstop, including the Giants, who have substantial money coming off the books, and perhaps even the rival Phillies if they fail to re-sign their own free-agent shortstop, Jimmy Rollins. Now wouldn't that be something?

The best guesses are probably the three highest estimates, the ones either approaching or at nine figures, considering Reyes' all-around skills. But still, none of those guesses comes close to Wilpon's claim of a Crawford request.

 
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