Good shortstops are always in demand, especially midseason. The number of contending teams in need of infield help almost always outweighs the number of quality MLB shortstops, so it stands to reason that a team not expecting to contend would be open to dealing its shortstop in the right situation. That's likely to be the scenario that we'll see this summer with the Mets and Jose Reyes.
Reyes, 28 in June, signed a four-year deal in August of 2006, and the Mets exercised their $11MM option this past offseason. Reyes hit the disabled list last year due to a thyroid issue after missing most of 2009 with a hamstring injury. He also battled through oblique strains over the course of the 2010 season, but appears healthy now. He's off to a nice .304/.333/.478 start with five stolen bases in five attempts.
Vintage form would see the switch-hitting Reyes as a 60-70 SB threat capable of hitting around 15 home runs while playing solid defense. That type of production would have teams lining up, but even with a more pedestrian season (by his standards), Reyes should attract significant attention at the deadline.
One knock on Reyes may be his career OBP of just .335, which the Mets said they'd like him to improve before considering a new deal. That OBP and his injury history may have been contributing factors in the recent Jayson Stark report that quoted one NL scout saying he'd recommend Reyes on a two-month rental, but not on a long-term deal. That may be just what's in store, as a month ago when Joel Sherman talked to five non-Met executives, not a single one saw Reyes returning to the Mets in 2012. So where might he end up? Let's look at some possible destinations:
- Milwaukee – The Brewers are stuck with Yuniesky Betancourt as their primary shortstop for the time being, so it stands to reason they'd look to upgrade at the deadline. Their farm systems have been picked pretty clean by the Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke trades, however.
- San Francisco – The Giants are trusting Miguel Tejada and his nearly 37-year-old frame to be their everyday shortstop, and they don't have much in terms of contingency plans. Tejada's defense and OBP woes may have San Francisco looking for external options come July.
- Cincinnati – The Reds are going with Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria to fill out their shortstop position, but they've looked for a leadoff hitter and a more concrete solution at short in the past. Reyes could fill both of those roles on a short-term basis in 2011 as they look to defend the NL Central title.
- Minnesota – If the Twins can turn around their terrible start to the 2011 season, they could certainly use an upgrade over Alexi Casilla at shortstop. With newcomer Tsuyoshi Nishioka on the shelf, their middle infield depth is particularly weak at the moment. The Twins were said to be at their payroll limit entering the season, however.
- St. Louis – Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker are currently playing up the middle for Tony La Russa, so it's not a stretch to see the Cardinals in search of a midseason improvement if they can remain in contention without Adam Wainwright. Like Minnesota, we heard that the Cardinals were low on funds late in the offseason.
Of course, injuries and other factors could lead other teams to enter the running for Reyes, as he currently only represents a midseason rental. The Mets will likely have a steep asking price for the three-time All Star, but teams are willing to part with elite prospects to make short-term pushes every year; 2011 should be no different.