On Reyes’ Option

The Mets exercised Jose Reyes’ $11 million dollar option for 2011 yesterday. Next season will somehow be his ninth season in Queens, which is insane to think about.

Reyes, as most of you already know, had a down year in 2010. He struggled with injury issues throughout the season. His on-base percentage sat at .321, he stole just 30 bases, and he was mostly meh defensively. (“Meh” being a precise and scientific term here that means “-5 runs by UZR.”) The pure physical talent — his speed and his arm — still appeared to be there, and he did have extended stretches of excellence. But some other times he just looked rusty.

Still, Reyes was the fourth-best offensive shortstop in all of baseball, making him a pretty valuable player nonetheless.

Sandy Alderson, at his introductory press conference last week, said something about shortstop transforming into an offensive position from a defensive one in recent history. (He specifically mentioned Bud Harrelson as an example of a defensive shortstop, so he gets bonus points for studying his Mets history.) I think this is true, but I also think it is true that every position is turning into an offensive position. It’s not that teams are discovering defense isn’t important. It’s that teams are discovering that offense is way more important than defense.

For example: By UZR, the gap between the best fielding shortstop (Alexei Ramirez, plus-10 runs defensively) and the worst one (Jason Bartlett, minus-ten runs) was 20 runs. By Runs Above Average, the gap between the best hitting shortstop (Troy Tulowitzki, plus-32 runs) and the worst (Cesar Izturis, minus-31 runs) was 60 runs. For catchers, another defensive position, the gap is 26 runs on defense and 43 runs on offense. For center fielders, the gap on defense is 46 runs but 72 runs on offense. If given the choice at a position between the best fielder or the best hitter, you should take the best hitter every single time.

As saber-person Eric Walker said to Adam Rubin last week:

“You can see right away that offense and defense, meaning runs scored and runs allowed, have equal weight in winning ballgames. Everybody understands that. That being so, defense being partly pitching and partly fielding, it’s immediately obvious that fielding is worth less than offense. It’s a part of defense. If you figured that fielding is half of defense, which is wildly exaggerating it because pitching is such a big part of it, that still makes offense twice as important as fielding. That doesn’t mean fielding is unimportant. But, all things considered, when you have your choices, you prefer the guy with ash rather than the guy with leather.”

Reyes, even in a down year, was a top-five offensive shortstop. If the Mets can extend him at a reasonable price, take the guy with the ash.

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