The Jose Reyes Conundrum

Reyes could test the Mets' ability to think about the big picture

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The baseball season starts this week, which means we can stop talking about Bernie Madoff and start discussing the names that will be more directly influencing wins and losses in Queens this season.

    Jose Reyes is right at the top of that list. He seems to be over the injuries that hindered him the last two seasons, putting him into position to help lead the team offensively in 2011.

    That leadership will be crucial to anything the Mets hope to accomplish. On paper, they appear to be a team that's right about the .500 mark and their best chance to exceed that expectation comes from a lineup that could be potent with things breaking their way.

    Returns to the roster from the disabled list by Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran figure significantly into that equation, but they rank below Reyes on the big board of dream Mets scenarios. That's not just because of Reyes's talent, it is because of what his resurgence could wind up meaning for the team.

    He's been a Met longer than anyone else on the team, has been loved and loathed at various points during that tenure and is facing free agency after the season at the age of 28. If he bounces back, he'll be looking at a massive contract -- one the Mets can't afford -- and he'll surely be in demand when the trading deadline rolls around.

    That could create quite the headache for Sandy Alderson.

    Let's say things break right for the Mets during the first half of the season at the plate and on the mound. The team isn't going to run away with anything, but it isn't too outlandish to believe that they could be at the front of the Wild Card mix when the last week of July rolls around.

    If they are in that position, it is almost certain that Reyes has performed well enough to get other teams interested in making a deal for his services. The Mets would then have to choose whether to keep him and make a run at the playoffs or make a deal for prospects who can help them down the road.

    It seems like an easy choice at this point. After years of making choices based on the five feet in front of their face, the Mets need to operate with a long term plan that will strengthen the entire organization for years to come.

    Alderson has done a lot to make that plan come to fruition, but it will be harder to sell that to a fan base if the team is in position to make the playoffs when the deadline rolls around. Rebuilding means a few years in the wilderness and that would make a playoff run in 2011, however improbable, something difficult to mess with until it runs its course.

    The Knicks are struggling to avoid a Metsian collapse to a season that has went south after a deal designed to help them in the future spoiled what had gone right in the present. The situations aren't exactly analagous, but fan uproar for messing with a good thing would surely look familiar and the Mets don't really need any more reason to tick off the faithful.

    It's a delicate balance, but one that ultimately has to favor the future over the present. Keeping Reyes and letting him go for draft picks would be okay, but a larger package of prospects would do more to get the Mets on the right track for the long haul.

    Because of the way it would shape today, tomorrow and beyond, a Reyes trade would be a defining moment for Alderson. We don't envy the task of dealing with this particular problem, even while conceding it would be an awfully nice one for the Mets to have.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.