Monday, May 30, 2011

Is Jose Reyes worth Carl Crawford money?

(photo credit:

Well, that depends who you ask.

If you ask Mets owner Fred Wilpon, he'd say no. "He thinks he's going to get Carl Crawford money," Wilpon said. "He's had everything wrong with him. He won't get it."

In a way, Wilpon is right. Reyes won't get "Crawford money" (8-years, $142 million) because not even Crawford is worth "Crawford money."

Crawford has proven his contract to be ridiculous after just 51 games by batting .236 with little power (.369 slugging percentage) and only seven steals. Those numbers were much worse a few weeks ago and he's been hot of late, but he's only batting sixth in the Red Sox lineup and deservedly so.

Wilpon also said David Wright was not a superstar and that Carlos Beltran was overpaid based on his performance in the 2004 playoffs. The Beltran comment is difficult to argue and while Wright does strike out a lot, he produces runs with his power and speed and plays good defense. If he's not a "superstar" he's close and regardless, Wilpon shouldn't be bashing his players in the midst of his serious financial woes.

Or should he be? Reyes, for one, has been obviously motivated by Wilpon's comments, recording multiple hits in seven of the eight games since the report came out. He is 17-for-37 during that stretch with 10 runs, four doubles, two triples and three stolen bases.

Reyes will be 28 in June and is right in the middle of his prime as a baseball player. It's a tough sell to give a player of his or Crawford's ilk $18 million a year but if Crawford is worth it, Reyes is too. And even if Crawford isn't, Reyes probably is.

Reyes has just one home run this season but is on pace for 53 doubles, 25 triples and 59 stolen bases while batting .335. The impact he has on a game from the leadoff spot is arguably more valuable than the league's premier power hitters. The main caveat with Reyes has always been injuries.

Crawford plays left field in Boston; most corner outfielders hit for more power than he does. But shortstop is the thinnest position in baseball and one of the most important; it also happens to be where the cannon-armed Reyes makes his home. Forget Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki; Reyes has been the NL's best shortstop this season.

That's not a fluke, either. Reyes has the talent to be the league's best shortstop and when healthy, is one of its 10 best players. If Reyes continues to produce like he has through the first third of the season he will be a legitimate MVP candidate by year's end, assuming he gets traded to a contender. Reyes is more valuable to a team than Crawford is; I think that's a difficult-to-argue statement.

Wilpon's comments have seemingly sealed Reyes' fate in New York. If he wants Crawford money, which I think he can and should get, he will have to go elsewhere. This makes a trade a near-certainty.

With no intention of re-signing Reyes for the money he will likely demand, the Mets need to pounce on trade offers sooner rather than later. The MLB trade deadline is two months away, but the way Reyes is playing right now it's hard to see his stock rising any further. If the Mets want a big-time pitching prospect, like the Giants' Madison Bumgarner, they need to strike while the iron is hot (and while San Francisco is still reeling from Buster Posey's season-ending injury).

After Wilpon's comment, the iron is burning hotter than it will be the rest of the season. The time is now for the Mets to move Reyes to a team willing to pay him the contract he should continue to earn over the rest of the season. The return at this moment for an $18 million player will be extraordinary.

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