For shortstop Jose Reyes, the 2011 season was the ninth season of his career with the New York Mets, and Mets fans certainly knew the day was coming when Reyes became a free agent. The Mets have been bleeding cash for several years now, and even the move into their new facility at CitiField in time for the start of the 2009 season couldn’t stop the negative cash flow. Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz are potentially on the hook for $386 million in the wake of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, and MLB has stepped in to help keep the Mets afloat during the past year.while it turned out to be his bestseason, it also turned out to be his final season in a Mets uniform.
With all of these factors in place, there was virtually no way for the Mets to offer Reyes anything close to what the market would bear for his services. So, now that Reyes has signed on the dotted line and has taken his talents to South Beach, how does his departure affect the Mets going forward?
For starters, it’s pretty hard to replace the reigning National League batting champion, but the Mets will now have the opportunity to see what 22-year-old rising star Ruben Tejada can do at the shortstop position full-time.
Tejada put up solid numbers for the Mets in 2011, spelling Reyes at short during his two DL stints and actually putting up comparable numbers to Reyes in the second half of 2011. Tejada hit .303 in 48 games during the second half, while Reyes hit .305. Tejada doesn’t possess the combination of speed, hitting and occasional power flashed by Reyes in his nine seasons with the Mets, but Tejada does have the ability to hit .300, steal 25-30 bases and provide sound if not spectacular defense at his position.
Assuming that GM Sandy Alderson isn’t tempted with a deal to send third baseman David Wright packing, the Mets will have offensive weapons with Wright and first baseman Ike Davis, who should be fully healthy by spring training following a debilitating ankle injury that ended his 2011 season after just 36 games.
Both Wright and Davis have 25 HR-100 RBI potential, and while left fielder Jason Bay has struggled in his time with the Mets, that potential is there for him as well.
Recent trades and signings by Alderson have bolstered the Mets’ bullpen as well. In a flurry of moves earlier this week, Alderson engineered a trade with the San Francisco Giants that delivered relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez and outfielder Andres Torres for center fielder Angel Pagan, and signed relievers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, significantly bolstering the back end of the Mets’ bullpen.
Offensively, Torres will likely be the starting center fielder and leadoff batter, with Daniel Murphy moving back to second base full-time and likely batting second. Davis, Wright and Bay will occupy the middle of the Mets’ order, giving the Mets a solid if not spectacular front five in their batting order.
While Reyes’ departure certainly leaves a hole in terms of production, the addition of Torres in addition to the developing talents of Tejada and Murphy could provide some hope for the Mets in 2012. However, in the ever-competitive NL East, it still may not be enough.