A confession: I love the trade deadline.
(What, you were expecting something more salacious? Step it up. This is a sports website, not some place that fits in the occasional piece of journalism around videos of Kate Upton walking down a runway with her twins bouncing around. Nope, this is pure class, the Dame Judi Dench of Boston sports sites.)
I can't get enough of the trade deadline. I'll hunt for rumors and read and listen to the same writers bring up the same names on every radio station, podcast and chat room in America. And that's part of the fun of it, right? Carlos Beltran is coming to Boston one minute, no chance of Beltran to Boston the next. And so it goes with every name linked to any contending team. A Google Search delight.
So when I saw that Nick Cafardo broke out the "Time to get Jose Reyes" story Sunday I was ready to dig in. This was kind of a new one. And it was a fun read, exactly what you want at this time of year. The Sox have problems at shortstop, money to spend (maybe), prospects to unload and are at worst the second favorite to win the World Series. Why not go after Reyes?
And the column had some legs, as you'd imagine. Good, solid internet and talk-show fodder. I decided to give it a second look after listening to more debate on the topic Monday, and was struck by this paragraph:
Would the switch-hitting Reyes only be a rent-a-player? If he is, and he leads the Sox to a championship, it’s worth it. And why couldn’t the Sox sign him? They are likely to re-sign David Ortiz, but J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron, Scutaro, and Jonathan Papelbon may all come off the books.
Let's take the second part first, shall we? It's true that Drew (you read it here first: My sources are telling me that there are no extension talks going on), Cameron and Scutaro all come off the books after this season. Assume for the sake of this argument that Papelbon is a goner and that's a total of $35.75 million gone from the payroll (there's a $3 million buyout for Scutaro).
So, sure, looks like there is the dough to sign Reyes. But let's remember this: Adrian Gonzalez's number jumps from $5.5 million this year to $21 million in 2012. Carl Crawford goes from $14 million to $19.5 million next season. Clay Buchholz will be in the first year of his deal. That's $24 million before you even delve into the Papelbon debate (and do I agree with the general consensus that has the Sox putting Papelbon on a bus and going with Bard, but things have a way of changing).
And also there's this: If you think Jose Reyes is a must-have and are willing to punt a significant part of the club's future by dealing two or three top prospects, I have very little problem with that. The truth is that we can only guess as to what kind of major-league performers guys like Jose Iglesias, Anthony Ranaudo and even Josh Reddick are going to be. For every Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia there is at least one Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss. The idea that the odds are heavily against Iglesias or Ranaudo turning out to be Reyes or Ubaldo Jiménez is a perfectly legitimate take. So why not trade the unknown for the known?
Well, because you would be giving up some of the known. If the Sox trade for Reyes, I'm thinking it would be with the intent of inking him to a long-term deal. And I'm also thinking you are probably looking at -- and this is conservative -- a Carl Crawford contract. So let's go with this -- the Sox sign Jose Reyes to a seven-year, $150 million deal. And everything seems swell. You'll see Gonzalez/Pedroia/Reyes/Youkilis on the SI preview cover with the title: Best Infield Ever? (Which would not be hyperbolic, if you think about it.)
But, and I know it's hard for folks to believe this, there is a limit on the Sox payroll. They could sign Reyes, but at what cost? You think they would then able able to sign Jacoby Ellsbury (who is looking very much like a potential $100 million free agent)? How about Youkilis, who will be a free agent after the 2012 season (club option for $13 mil in 2013)? Jon Lester's deal is done after 2014 (he'll be 30 years old and one would assume also in line for a pretty significant contract).
If Reyes signed the same deal as Crawford you would be looking at $92 million for Reyes/Crawford/Gonzalez/Beckett/Lackey in 2012, with all four guys locked in through at least 2014. See what I'm getting at? That's it: There'll be no more room for big-money guys -- maybe you'd be able to keep one of the Ellsbury/Lester/Youkilis trio. But if we are to believe that the Sox aren't going to go north of the budget we see today, the question is really this: Are you willing to trade two or three top prospects and lose probably Ellsbury and Youkilis in the next three years for seven years of Reyes?
Jose Reyes is having an MVP season and he's sure having it at the right time. If you can guarantee me that the Sox will get anything close to the Jose Reyes we have seen in 2011 for the next half-decade (with the understanding that the last year or so of one of these long-term deals is likely going to be a massive overpayment for past performance) I might be on board with Cafardo, who wrote Sunday that the Sox need to "load up the truck of prospects and send them to the Mets."
But what about the Reyes of last season, who missed 30 games and had an OPS of .749, tied for 53rd in the National League? Or how about the year before, when he played just 36 games? Really good players -- which Reyes unquestionably was before the start of the season -- can pop a fluke year. It happens. This is a career .291 hitter batting .354. His OPS is .927 -- 145 points higher than his career total.
I'm not a big believer in the theory that guys suddenly have their best season in the final year of a contract. I have no idea if a contract year means a player is going to perform better or worse, I really don’t. Haven’t seen a lot of definitive proof one way or the other (you give me Adrian Beltre, I'll give you Derek Lowe and his 5.42 ERA in 2004).
But Reyes would scare me a little if I had to cut the check for $150 million. There's some injury history (he just got off the DL with a hamstring injury that has kept him out for three weeks). Plus this: Reyes hits a million triples and plays great defense and steals a ton of bases, three things that guys in their 30's almost never do (which is why I was against the Crawford signing). I just don't think he'll age well as a player, at least not a player making $20 million a year.
As to Cafardo's first point, that renting Reyes for three months would be "worth it" if the Sox win a championship? Well, you've heard a lot of that around here the last couple of weeks. This team was built to win a World Series, and they have to do everything they can to make sure it happens. So if that means giving up prospects for Reyes, fine. If it means trading Josh Reddick for Carlos Beltran, deal with it.
Here's the flaw, though: What about next year? I'm presuming this team will still be on the World Series shortlist, right? How about the year after that? Why is this year more important than 2013? How many times can the Sox trade three elite prospects for a player before the farm system is barren? How many times can they sign a guy to a $100 million contract before it hurts the overall depth of a team? Sometimes you have to live with the cruel reality that Marco Scutaro is your shortstop and Jose Iglesias might just be a guy who hits .220.
Jose Reyes would be a massive upgrade of Marco Scutaro. He would almost certainly be a huge upgrade over Jose Iglesias (though let's remember that Iglesias is under club control for the next six years and in this lineup doesn't need to do more than hit .240 if he's in fact the defensive player we've been told he is) during the life of a contract.
But he's not worth the money and he's not worth what the Sox would have to give up to get him.
Nice try, though.
Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to see if there's anything to this J.D. Drew for Albert Pujols rumor.