The Jose Reyes trade talk returned this week, and will probably continue from now until July 31st, driving us all bonkers in the process. Get ready everyone: It’s going to be a long hot summer spent hitting refresh on MLB Trade Rumors, curled up in a dark corner, shaking and gnawing at the walls. As most probably know by now, Jose Reyes is a free agent after this season and will likely demand a big contract. As the thinking goes, the Mets might be unwillingly to sign Reyes to an expensive deal because A.) he makes too many outs, B.) he has an injury history, C.) with a game based around speed, Reyes might not age well if his speed goes, and finally D.) the Mets are poor. And if they’re not going to resign him, they should trade him to a contender and get some new toys back. Thus: Jose Reyes trade speculation.
I have no response to concern D, because I really don’t understand the team’s financial situation. Maybe they have money, maybe they don’t. Maybe SNY has asked if I have any extra baseballs laying around I wouldn’t mind donating to the Mets, and maybe they haven’t. But here are two things to think about with regards to giving Jose Reyes a big contract:
— Keep in mind that silly sign the Mets have in the tunnel between the dugout and clubhouse: “Prevention and Recovery.” Cliche as it is, those really are the two components of keeping a player on the field. While Reyes’ leg injury in 2009 and ongoing oblique pull in 2010 exhumed the durability concerns, don’t forget that both injuries were aggravated by the . . . let’s say “odd” way the Mets handled his recovery. Reyes’ leg injury in 2009 was originally diagnosed as a calf injury — he played just four days later — which turned into a torn tendon, then a hamstring tear, all while the Mets insisted that Reyes was day-to-day or just a week away and pushed for his return. Last season, Reyes’ oblique was again an ongoing problem that was never allowed to heal. Remember that the Mets even allowed the switch-hitting Reyes to return and bat just from the right side for a week. Read that sentence again. That really happened.
This isn’t necessarily to blame the injury staff: recall the job security of the manager and general manger at that point. It’s not hard to envision a scenarios where the long term health of a player might be jeopardized for the short term success of the team.
So while Reyes may indeed be prone to injuries, the way those injuries are handled makes a huge difference. If his injuries from the past two seasons were handled differently, maybe Reyes misses two months in 2009 and just 20 days last season, something like that. Prevention is key, but so is recovery — consider how decisively and cautiously Angel Pagan and Jason Bay’s side injuries have been handled this season.
— With regards to Reyes’ skill set and aging: There this old Bill James idea about old player skills vs. young player skills. You can read more about it in an excellent U.S.S. Mariner post, but here’s a brief excerpt from there:
In the largest sense, young player skills are speed and contact hitting. Putting the ball into play and running it out. You can think of speed and defense in here too, if you want, but I’m ignoring that for now. A current classic young-player hitter skill set is someone like Ichiro — high batting average, doesn’t walk very often, doesn’t hit home runs. Their extra-base power comes out of doubles.
Old player skills are walks and hitting for power. They stop being able to beat out infield hits as they slow, some of their well-hit doubles turn into long singles, while others go over fences. Think David Ortiz, or to some extent Raul Ibanez. The three true outcomes, where the defense isn’t involved at all: K, BB, or HR.
Jose Reyes has young player skills, Jason Bay has old player skills, and David Wright has old player skills with a few young player skills mixed in. (Miguel Tejada has decrepit player skills. Come on. He has to be at least 83 years old.) It’s important to note that not all young players have young player skills, and not all old players have old player skills. The Braves’ Jason Heyward is 21 and has mostly old player skills. Ichiro still has young player skills.
Anyway, Bill James found that players with young player skills tended, as a group, to age slightly better than their old player skills counterparts. The idea is that players with young player skills can adjust: as your speed goes, you can learn to be more selective and wait for pitches, driving them if they’re there or taking a walk if they’re not. On the other hand, if you already have old player skills, you can’t “learn” to be faster, so there are less things to compensate with as one ages and bats slow down.
There’s a lot of generalizations in the above paragraph, and it’s not a guarantee any of that happens with Jose Reyes, or any player with a certain skill set. But it is something to think about. He can learn to be more selective, something the Mets were already hoping he’d do this season.
All the concerns about giving Jose Reyes a long-term deal are real ones: the injuries, a game based on speed, his on-base percentage, and dollar dollar bill, ya’ll. But before assuming that the Mets would be unwilling to deal out a big contract to Reyes, there are some decent reasons to consider that they might.