I hear from Met fans a lot via texting and Twitter and they all ask me the same thing--will Jose Reyes be back? I have never wavered in my viewpoint from early in the year and my sense is he will be back. That being said, the process has barely begun and as with any business deal, a myriad of factors can either catalyze the process or slow it down. For example, does the Ryan Howard injury make it more or less likely the Phillies might take a run at Jose? From everything I am hearing, the Phillies desperately want to keep Ryan Madsen who is a free agent and have to deal with Jimmy Rollins as well. Those talks with Rollins and Madsen could have a big impact on any pursuit of Reyes especially if, for instance, Rollins might cost less than they thought or Madsen cost more than they expected.
Then there is the CC Factor--if he opts out of his Yankee contract, I would expect the Red Sox to enter the sweepstakes which could preclude them from getting serious with Reyes. My hunch is they will look for pitching first even if CC is not on the open market and the Crawford 7 year deal might make them reticent to tip their toes into the Reyes sweepstakes. As far as the San Francisco Giants are concerned, my sources tell me that they would rather re-sign Beltran than go for Reyes for a few reasons. First of all, they traded one of the top pitching prospects out there for Beltran and secondly on the heels of that trade, to then lose 2 draft picks to the Mets might make them skiddish. In addition, they have to think about re-upping Matt Cain at some point whom I believe is a more important piece for them considering their team is built around pitching.
So, I consider the Red Sox, Phils, and Giants as long shots but I do think the Mets will get competition from both the Nationals and Brewers and I expect both teams to be serious bidders. In the case of the Nationals, they have some good young pitching both in the rotation and in the bullpen and could use another bat at the top of the order. Reyes could enhance their OBP which was really poor last year. The only fly in the ointment here is the Jayson Werth contract was criticized heavily and he did not really perform up to expectations and so if they do commit to huge dollars, it might be for a big RBI bat like Prince Fielder. Which brings us to the Brewers.
Milwaukee had a great season getting to the sport's Final Four with improved pitching and 2 absolute superstars in Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. Their payroll was around $93 million last year and I get the sense they might increase it to a little over $100 million this year. The big question is will they commit that money to Prince Fielder or more properly do they have enough to foot the bill? If not, they might enter the Reyes sweepstakes especially if Fielder goes to the Nats. Now, in Fielder's case there is always the chance a team like the Cubs might swoop in which case keeps Reyes in play for both the Nats and the Brewers. The problem for guys like Fielder and even Pujols to a certain extent, is first base is a position that most of the high spending teams like the Phils, Red Sox, and Yankees have great first basemen on the roster already committed to heavy dollars.
I do see this as a game between the Brewers, Mets, and Nationals with the Red Sox, Giants, and Phils as long shots. However,I do firmly believe that the Mets are the favorites at this early stage but I must warn you it is still very early and things in the off-season can move as fast as a Jose Reyes triple.