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hot stove 2011

The Jose Reyes Dramas Are About to Begin

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets runs off the field after the top of the fifth inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on September 25, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) So it begins.

Andy Martino, our personal favorite New York Mets beat reporter, had the agenda-setting story this morning: The Mets have a clear ceiling of what they're willing to pay Jose Reyes. Now, in itself, this isn't really news. Obviously the Mets have a ceiling of what they're willing to pay Reyes; otherwise, he'd just say "I'd like 80 billion dollars an hour, please" and the Mets would just smack themselves in the head and say, "argh, we totally should have had a clear ceiling of what we're willing to pay, but, alas, we don't. Where's our checkbook?" The news is that Sandy Alderson actually said it.

Here's the exact quote from Alderson:

“I don’t think either one of those things is going to happen. I don’t think Jose is going to give us a number for which he would forgo free agency, and I don’t think we’re in a position to make what I would characterize as a preemptive offer."

The exclusive negotiating window for Reyes closes at the end of the day tomorrow, so what Alderson is essentially saying is that the Reyes will file for free agency and listen to all suitors ... and then we'll all see what happens. As we've noted before, there's no real path for the Mets to contend next year without signing Reyes. Of course, there might not be a path to contention if he does sign.

The question is: Is Reyes the Mets' franchise player, the one they move heaven and Earth to sign? Or is this a complete start-over? Over at Metsblog, Matt Cerrone thinks they'll come to a compromise, but not until Reyes tests the waters a bit. Cerrone thinks maybe five years, $85 million or so, with a couple of option years, gets it done. We are not sure about that. We bet Reyes, for all his injury issues, can get more than that on the open market. You know what might actually benefit the Mets? If the Cardinals sign Albert Pujols. If Pujols remains a Cardinal, St. Louis won't be able to spend on Reyes. But if they lose Pujols, they'll go right after the shortstop position, and Reyes — who is younger, cheaper, and can be had for fewer years than Pujols — will be their primary target.

It might be a while until the Pujols issue is resolved, but the way it's looking, it'll be a while until the Reyes issue is resolved too. This is all to say that free agency is about to start, and with no basketball, this is becoming your new non-hockey sport. Happy Holidays.

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Photo: Patrick McDermott/2011 Getty Images