Since the end of the regular season, Jose Reyes’ Twitter timeline has consisted of two things: promotion for his new single “Conectao” with Jay The Prince, and endorsements from Mets fans for his return to Queens in 2018.
Reyes has clearly shown a desire to play a 12th season in New York. After telling The Record in late September that he’d love to finish his career with the Mets, Reyes has double-downed with his recent wave of retweets that seem to act as an open invitation for the franchise that signed him as a 17-year-old amateur free agent to bring him back for another go round.
Reyes is a rare player that spans that last two eras of Mets history. In 2006, he helped the Mets win their first NL East division title in 18 years, and after making stops in Miami, Toronto, and Colorado, he returned in 2016 and acted as a second half spark to the team’s 2016 Wild Card berth.
But as the Mets embark on another retooling of their roster, it is difficult to picture where Reyes fits. Amed Rosario, a player who the Mets brass hope will take another step in his development, will be the full-time shortstop. If the team signs a free agent to handle either second or third base responsibilities, and assuming Asdrubal Cabrera will fill whatever position isn't upgrading, starting opportunities will be limited. To Reyes’ credit, he is willing to accept a bench role, but even this bears its own set of issues.
If he were to return, the Mets would carry a redundancy of poor defensive infielders on their bench. Cabrera (-0.9 dWAR), Reyes (-2.1 dWAR), and Wilmer Flores (-1.3 dWAR) are all significant minuses defensively, with Reyes the worst offender. Assuming he would be used as a “super sub,” placing Reyes’s glove in the field during the high-leverage late innings would be a big risk for the Mets, and one they don’t need to take.
Reyes’ presence on the bench would also mean less playing time for Flores -- who absolutely must play against lefties (and was far better than Jose defensively at second base last year) -- and probably means blocking Gavin Cecchini again.
That said, Reyes does have something left to give offensively. He was worth 2.1 oWAR, and his bounce-back in the second half was notable, as he slashed .300/.375/.905 over 114 plate appearances in September and October. However, for a player who turns 35 in 2018 and has played 15 years in the majors, it’s very reasonable to assume that Reyes is on the decline.
Baseball fans are sentimental, and we tend to grow especially fond of those players who both excite us and show a passion for the game. Since his call-up in 2003, few players have been as compelling to watch as Reyes. He will always be beloved by the Mets faithful, but if the club wants to compete in 2018, it appears less and less likely that Jose will play a part in that. It is difficult to deny a player who wants a role with your club, but in this case it may be the right move.