Slapping a Value on Jose Reyes

By Unknown author

As unique a player Jose Reyes truly is, due to his injury history and the type of game he plays, he’s an extremely difficult player to slap a value on. But while it’s painful to imagine a New York Mets lineup and infield devoid of Reyes, the franchise also has to protect itself against paying the guy top dollar without receiving equivalent production in return.

According to Fan Graphs, Jose Reyes has been worth an average of $19.7 million per season since 2006. That’s $118.2 million total. However, as magnificent as Reyes has been on average over the past six seasons, he was only worth $3.7 million in 2009 and $11.5 million in 2010 (mostly due to injuries). The key to Jose Reyes enjoying a prosperous season is rather simple–staying healthy. In his past six seasons, he’s been worth an average of $25 million when he eclipses the 650 plate appearance mark. But on the flip side, he’s only been worth an average of $14.3 million when he doesn’t. And yes, there’s a solid chance Reyes would make his big contract worthwhile over the length of it, but if the Mets are serious about competing–especially in 2013 and 2014–the team cannot afford to suffer any seasons where Reyes only contributes 15-50% of what he’s earning.

This is why anything more than a four-year deal with incentives to enact a fifth or sixth year would be extremely risky. Reyes and his agent have been vocal about wanting a lot of contract years and joining the $100 million club, but the Mets simply cannot afford to deal both. But, that doesn’t mean a contract couldn’t be finagled to benefit both Reyes and the Mets’ needs.

Here is such proposed contract:

  • 2012-2015: $22.5 Million Per ($90 Million Total)
  • 2016: $20 Million PLAYER Option or $10 Million Buyout (if he averages 650 PA’s from 2012-2015)
  • 2017: $20 Million TEAM Option or $5 Million Buyout (if he has 650 PA’s in 2016)

In the proposed contract, Reyes is guaranteed to make $100 million in just four seasons if (and only if) he averages 650 plate appearances from 2012 to 2015. At the very least, he takes home $90 million, and is a free agent again at a still ripe age 32. In addition–if he hits the 650 average plate appearance plateau–Reyes has an option to stick with the Mets in 2016, and would make $20 million. In this scenario, Reyes would snare $110 million over five seasons or $22 million per season–which is probably more than another prospective franchise will offer him.

So if Reyes could make $110 million over five seasons, why not just offer him a straight-up deal, and avoid dancing with a costly buy-out for 2016? It’s called “insurance.” While the Mets will hope Reyes will be worth his paychecks, given his substandard production in 2009 and 2010 seasons, the proposed contract protects the Mets from enduring an injury-riddled Reyes for his post-30 years. But the contract doesn’t leave Reyes in the dust either. If he does eclipse the 650 plate appearance plateau, he will probably be producing at a high level–thus the Mets will want to retain him for his still high price tag. Also, if Reyes were to again collect 650 plate appearances in 2016, the Mets would have a $20 million team option for 2017 (or a less costly $5 million buyout).

In total, Jose Reyes would walk away with at least $90 million over four seasons (guaranteed), could earn $100 million over four (if he averages 650 plate appearances from 2012 to 2015 but decides to walk away), pocket $110 million over five (if he averages 650 plate appearances from 2012 to 2015 and uses his player option), net $115 million over five (if he has 650 plate appearances in 2016 but the Mets decline his 2016 option), or see as much as $130 million over six (if he has 650 plate appearances in 2016 but the Mets pick-up his 2016 option).

But as much as this contract makes sense for all parties involved, it solely depends whether the Wilpons are actually serious about retaining their star player. Guaranteed years or not, it’s still all about the money, and if it’s available.