La Velle E. Neal III's Sunday Insider: Reyes is style plus substance

Jose Reyes is a rare breed of shortstop who could become available in a mid-season deal if the Mets' troubles persist.


You get speed, range and a big smile with New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. He might take those attributes elsewhere given that he’s in the final year of his contract.

Photo: Christopher Pasatieri, Mct - Mct

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This isn't meant to be a plea for the Twins to look into acquiring Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, but if fans want to dream of his braids wagging in the breeze at Target Field, so be it.

There will be a lot of talk about Reyes because he's in the final year of his contract, he plays a key position and he's pretty darn good. He has great range, can be a catalyst at the top of the order, and he usually plays with a big smile. After struggling with injuries the past two seasons, Reyes looks fit and entered Saturday batting .326 with 12 steals this season.

Again, not suggesting here that the Twins make a call on Reyes.

The Mets aren't going to win this year, and there are concerns about the financial stability of ownership because of its ties to convicted financial felon Bernie Madoff. So moving Reyes makes a lot of sense for the Mets because of the package they could receive for him. The one thing the Mets must determine is how much of an attendance/public relations hit they would take if Reyes is dealt. He is one of the few reasons Mets fans come to Citi Field.

The only red flag with Reyes came before the 2010 season when he was interviewed by the FBI about his relationship with a Canadian doctor caught smuggling HGH into the country. He has denied taking the drug and has moved on.

He can be an impact player, and the Twins, Giants, Reds and Cardinals are among teams who could use him.

But why should the Twins pursue Reyes? They prefer to throw bodies at the position. Trevor Plouffe is getting his chance this weekend, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka could make it four shortstops in two months once he recovers from injury. Since 2007, Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Adam Everett, Orlando Cabrera, Alexi Casilla and J.J. Hardy have all played at least 30 games at short for the Twins in a season.

Reyes, 27, was 20 when he broke into the majors in 2003. He has led the National League in triples twice, in stolen bases three times and in hits once.

He is making $11 million in the final year of his contract and is in line for a big free-agent payday. The Yankees' Derek Jeter leads shortstops with an average annual salary of $17 million. Troy Tulowitzki is next at $15.775 million. Some think Reyes could land a Carl Crawford-like deal that averages a little more than $20 million a season.

Reyes could end up as a very important rent-a-player for someone. There were reports last week that the Giants had inquired about Reyes. Get ready for more stories about the Mets getting calls about Reyes. He is the Cliff Lee of 2011, and Reyes should remain in the rumor bin until the trade deadline passes.

Probably not for the Twins, though. Their payroll is tapped out at around $113 million. It doesn't matter that Reyes would be owed only $3.57 million if dealt for on July 31. It doesn't matter that the Twins, after the season, can take about $38 million in payroll off the books in Joe Nathan ($12.5 million), Michael Cuddyer ($10.5 million), Matt Capps ($7.15 million), Jason Kubel ($5.25 million) and Jim Thome ($3 million).

Nope, they don't have the financial flexibility, or prospects, or starting pitching.

They don't need the stability. They don't need the production. They don't need the energy. They don't need a spark.

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