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The hot stove portion of the baseball year is equal parts fun and silly.
It's fun because we all like imagining big trades that probably aren't going to happen (Tim Lincecum to the Yankees!) and because it is endlessly amusing to read breathless reports about how this team will be chasing that player only to see nothing even close come to fruition.
That's also where the silliness enters the equation, as these kinds of reports are treated with seriousness even though they come from agents and general managers with agendas that have nothing to do with truth.
So long as you take everything with the appropriate grain of salt, the whole period usually winds up being more fun than anything else. We say usually, because it would seem that this year's process is going to be anything but for those who follow the Mets.
The Jose Reyes decision, which thankfully will not feature an ESPN special devoted to it, will take quite a while and every day that it drags along will be a little bit more painful to Mets fans. If Reyes winds up leaving, the process of leaving will end up feeling like the world's slowest band-aid pull.
Only one free agent signed in November last season -- Victor Martinez to the Tigers -- which means everything that happens before December's Winter Meetings is basically fodder for those aforementioned reports as everyone jockeys for position. No player wants to be the first to sign only to see the market get set at a bigger number after he's made his deal nor does any team want to break the bank for a player before finding out that they spent steakhouse prices for McDonald's.
It will be especially true for Reyes, because his best strategy is to wait and see where Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder wind up before striking his own deal. If either leaves their current team, it is easy to see either the Cardinals or Brewers taking a serious run at Reyes' services to replace them and once they have signed it will be easier to figure out just how much money Reyes will wind up receiving.
That's going to make the next month very difficult for those who want Reyes to come back to New York next season. Since we know exactly where things stand with the Mets -- no hometown discount, no wild offers from Sandy Alderson, the team is willing to let others lead the chase -- it is going to be a steady stream of "Reyes to ______" rumors with the Mets never filling in the blank.
It's a painful idea to sit and watch someone you want to leave the dance with you go out and flirt with everybody else before finding out just before closing time what their choice will be. It would be much easier if that decision was made at the start of the night, even if the decision was one that left you dancing with Ruben Tejada.
If Reyes leaves, this whole month is just a slow knife twisting deep into the flesh of Mets fans and then being pulled out at a million miles an hour. It's not Reyes' fault, this is the system and the Mets aren't going to pull themselves out of the running, but that doesn't make it any easier to spend day after day picturing him in different uniforms.