As little as six months ago, it would have been enthralling to hear the rumor that Jose Reyes has the Angels at the top of his list when he hits free agency this off-season. But after the resurgence of Erick Aybar and with the growing concern about just how much payroll Arte Moreno can really afford, I’m not sure that the Angels and their fans are going to have their collective skirt blown up by Reyes’ surprising interest in joining the franchise.
It isn’t that Reyes isn’t a fine player or a poor fit for the Mike Scioscia’s system, quite the opposite, in fact. Reyes is an MVP candidate this year with very good reason and his speed-based game makes him arguably the best free agent most well-suited to join the Angels since, well, and I get a lump in my throat even mentioning this but, since Carl Crawford.
And therein lies the rub.
Crawford is such a great comp for Carl Crawford that just about every expert expects Reyes to ask and receive a contract identical to the one Crawford got last winter. The same exact contract that Arte Moreno classified as “crazy.” Assuming the Angels even show interest in Reyes after this season, a big “if” by the way, this is already shaping up to be another in a long line of Angel free agency failures, which is probably why the Angels will bow out of the Reyes sweepstakes before it even begins.
That would definitely be a smart financial choice, but is it the right baseball choice?
For the sake of argument, let’s set aside the likelihood of Moreno giving into the insanity of paying Reyes $140+ million and assume that the only thing standing in the way of him donning the Halo red is the blessing of Mike Scioscia, something that isn’t a sure thing since Scioscia already has his shortstop in Erick Aybar. With the year Reyes is having, few would argue that he wouldn’t be an upgrade over Aybar, even with as good as Aybar has been this year. But before you start nodding furiously in agreement consider these three slash lines: .282/.321/.428, .279/.355/.395 and .285/.320/.439.
Anyone want to guess what those represent?
Give up yet?
The first two lines are Reyes 2009 and 2010 performances, respectively while the third is Aybar’s performance this year. Eerily similar, no?
Sure, Aybar was much worse the year before and Reyes has been much better this year, but I’d venture to say that it is far more likely that Reyes is the one playing over his head this year and not Aybar. Now, Reyes is a better basestealer, though Aybar has closed the gap some this season, and Reyes is a better defender (but probably not by much), I’m not so sure that he is worth paying so much more in order for the Halos to kick Aybar to the curb, especially since Aybar is under team control for one more year before he hits free agency where he would be lucky to garner an offer for even half of what Reyes is expected to pull in.
The only way the Angels should even consider replacing Aybar with Reyes is if they can find a way to flip Aybar via trade for a big missing piece to their championship puzzle, like a slugging third baseman or catcher, but I don’t think such a player exists that a team would be willing to swap for one year’s worth of Aybar.
Outside of such a trade falling in their lap, the only motivation I can see for the Angels to even pursue Reyes would be so that they can finally prove their doubters wrong and land that elusive “big splash” free agent they always seem to be after, but that would be the equivalent of cutting off their nose to spite their face since forking over so much dough to Reyes would make it nearly impossible for the Angels to re-sign both Howie Kendrick and Jered Weaver after 2012 (and maybe even impossible to re-sign Weaver by himself).
Sorry, Jose, I’m glad you’re so interested in the Angels, it really is flattering, but it just isn’t going to happen. If it makes you feel better, just know that it isn’t you, it’s us.