Right after the season was over, the Mets did the smart thing, picking up Jose Reyes‘ option for the 2017 season. Reyes is a player that gives the Mets depth, and he provides insurance for some key positions.
Should David Wright go down again, we saw that Reyes can handle playing third base very well. Should Asdrubal Cabrera have another injury plagued year, Reyes can spell him to keep him fresh. With an offseason to work on it, Reyes can also make himself a capable defender at second base and quite possibly the outfield.
Second base is interesting because the Mets do not know what Neil Walker can provide with a surgically repaired back. With that in mind, Reyes may find himself playing more games than anyone else on the Mets bench. Should that be the case?
First of all, lets remember Reyes is essentially playing the role that Wilmer Flores was supposed to play last season. Also consider that Reyes has become a much faster, lighter-hitting version of Flores.
Both players absolutely maul left-handed pitching while they are feeble hitters against right-handers. Without telling you who was who, here are their splits from the 2016 season:
|vs. RHP||vs. LHP|
To show this is part of a larger trend, here are the numbers from the 2015 season as well:
|vs. RHP||vs. LHP|
If you had trouble deciphering which one was Reyes and which one was Flores, that is the point. If you thought Player A was Flores and Player B was Reyes, you were correct. After reviewing the numbers, wouldn’t it be fair to say that at least offensively Flores has become the better player?
Now, there are some caveats to this. In 2015, Reyes only played in 116 games due to injury. In 2016, he only played in 60 games due to his suspension and his eventual release. When you have smaller sample sizes, you tend to see greater fluctuations in the statistics. It is important when you consider Reyes has largely been platoon-neutral in his career. Naturally, you would want to rely upon the splits from a player’s entire 14 year career than from two abbreviated seasons.
However, you cannot ignore trends, especially trends from a player that is going to be turning 34 next season. In his four years since leaving the Mets, Reyes has been a .286/.334/.409 hitter who has averaged 29 doubles, four triples, nine homers, and 50 RBI with 27 stolen bases a season. Compare that to the .292/.341/.441 hitter who averaged 25 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, and 47 RBI with 41 stolen bases during Reyes’ first tour of duty with the Mets. Fact is, Reyes is a different player than the one we knew.
And no, this isn’t a case of Reyes being a different player in New York. In his only year with the Marlins, he hit .287/.347/.433 with 37 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers, and 57 RBI with 40 stolen bases. In Reyes’ first year with the Blue Jays, he hit .296/.353/.427 with 20 doubles, no triples, 10 homers, 37 RBI, and 15 stolen bases. That 2013 season with the Blue Jays was an injury plagued one for Reyes as he only played in 93 games. He hasn’t been the same player after that season becoming just a .279/.321/.400 hitter in the three subsequent years.
Overall, Reyes is still a talented player that has a lot to offer. However, Reyes no longer has the skills that made him an All Star-caliber player. While he still has above average speed, it is certainly not elite anymore. While he can play the middle infield, he no longer has the range he once had. While he can still hit for some power, he no longer has the ability to consistently get on base. Long story short, Reyes is a player in decline at age 34.
Despite these issues, Reyes should be an important player for the Mets in 2017. However, considering he’s been in decline, and the fact that the 25 year old Flores has room to improve as a player, the Mets should be careful of overplaying Reyes when Flores could potentially have the more dangerous bat in 2017 and beyond.
Having both Reyes and Flores speaks to how much depth the Mets have in the infield, and having to decide between the two of them is a good problem to have. Ultimately, we should look to both players being valuable contributors for what we all hope is a World Series Championship team.