Mets shouldn't deal either star player

Mets shouldn't deal either star player

Published Jun. 1, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Let’s get right to the point: The debate over which cornerstone the Mets should keep is ridiculous.

David Wright is 28. Jose Reyes is about to turn that age. The Mets should go forward with both of them, not trade one or the other.

Now I know I might be dreaming, seeing as how Reyes is a potential free agent and the Mets’ finances are, uh, evolving. And yes, Reyes might want a ton of money, a hazard of the trade for teams that develop great players.

Deal with it.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has said that he expects the team’s 2012 player budget to be somewhere above $100 million and somewhere below the present payroll of about $140 million.

Team officials say privately that, under certain circumstances — closer Frankie Rodriguez disappearing, for one — they could afford both Reyes and Wright.

Granted, it’s difficult to know what to believe with the Mets. But if they’re not going down to $100 million — the 2012 payroll number that owner Fred Wilpon suggested to Sports Illustrated — then they have no excuse.


Yes, their owners face a $1 billion lawsuit from Irving Picard, the trustee for the victims of Bernie Madoff’s illegal Ponzi scheme. Yes, a long-term deal for Reyes would be an undeniable risk, given his checkered medical history.

I don’t want to hear it, Mets fans don’t want to hear it and David Einhorn, who wants to become the team’s $200 million minority partner, shouldn’t want to hear it, either.

A little creativity, please.

The Mets should sign Reyes not to a Carl Crawford contract, but a shorter deal with nearly as high an average annual value — say five years, $95 million — plus easily attainable option years if Reyes stays healthy.

Wright, who is under club control through 2013, would bring more value back than Reyes in a trade. Such a move, if it occurred in the offseason, would create payroll flexibility and — assuming Wright is healthy and coming off a big second half — enable the Mets to trade him at something near his peak.

I still wouldn’t do it.

Oh, I know that Wilpon doesn’t think Wright is “a superstar.” Others in the industry agree, too, overlooking two problems of the Mets’ own design: Wright hits in an unfavorable park and plays, in Wilpon’s immortal words, for a “s-----” team.

Let’s see if I can build a market for this ne’er-do-well third baseman, whose OPS-plus from 2008 to ’10 — as pointed out by Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger — was comparable to Mark Teixeira’s from ’06 to ’08 at a similar age.

Wright would fit for both Los Angeles teams, both Chicago teams, the Rockies, Orioles, Twins, Tigers and Mariners. He could replace Scott Rolen in Cincinnati, Chipper Jones in Atlanta and Aramis Ramirez with the Cubs.

That enough?

No, the Mets probably wouldn’t trade Wright to the Braves or Phillies. But I’d bet that the Phillies’ uber-aggressive GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., would move heaven, earth and a killer prospect package to get Wright’s right-handed bat at Citizens Bank Park.

I’ll say it again: The entire discussion is ridiculous. If so many teams could use Wright, then maybe, just maybe, the Mets could use him, too.

Reyes is better suited for Citi Field — his .398 batting average at home this season is the highest in the National League. But Wright proved last season that he isn’t a bad fit himself, producing an .880 OPS at home than and an .834 OPS on the road.

Besides, the Mets aren’t necessarily committed to keeping Citi at its present dimensions. The configuration is “totally adjustable,” according to one source with knowledge of the club’s thinking. The 16-foot wall in left, for example consists of two eight-foot panels. Remove one, and home runs to left would become more attainable.

The park’s spaciousness, though, is an advantage for the team’s pitchers and also for Reyes, who leads the majors with eight triples, all of which have come at home. The moment the Mets lose Reyes, they will start looking for someone similar to replace him. Only there is no one similar. Reyes is electric, magnetic, unique.

Crawford money? That would be seven years, $142 million. Wilpon said of Reyes, “He’s had everything wrong with him. He’s not going to get it.” Perhaps Wilpon is correct; durability was a big part of Crawford’s appeal. But prominent free agents often exceed expectations.

In April 2010, I speculated that Crawford might land an eight-year, $120 million contract as a free agent. More than one Rays official mocked that notion, suggesting that I vastly overestimated Crawford’s market. Well, I was wrong, all right. I undersold Crawford by more than $5 million a year.

I’m not saying that the Mets should sign Reyes at any price. I’m merely saying that the team should explore every possible way to complete a deal before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, and trade Reyes only if an agreement is deemed absolutely unattainable.

Imagine if the Yankees had two comparable players under 30. Would they be thinking about parting with one and possibly the other? Of course not. They would be thinking about locking each of them up, the way they did with Robinson Cano.

Well, the Mets play in the same town as the Yankees. The financial pictures of the two clubs, at this moment, could not be more dissimilar. But if the Mets are going to field say, a $120 million payroll next season, then the discussion is over.

They damn sure should keep Jose Reyes and David Wright.