Reyes decision clouds future with Mets

Michael Rushton, MLB Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If those once-popular celebrity poker tournaments are still around, Jose Reyes may want to jump on board while the getting is good.

Reyes made it known on Tuesday that he has informed the New York Mets he does not want to talk about a possible contract until after the conclusion of the regular season. He indicated that the large cash cow waiting for him has nothing to do with his decision, only that he wants to continue his career year without the complication of off-the-field issues.

Whether his intentions are genuine or merely a nice way of saying goodbye, Reyes is going to cash in this offseason. The problem for the Mets is that they may not be able to cough up the dough to keep their fan-favorite shortstop, who now figures to be one of the top free agents available this winter.

"It's not about the money, it's about me being comfortable," Reyes said. "I don't want any distractions on my mind, I just want to play baseball. Nothing's changed. I want to stay here, like I've always said. I want to be a New York Met my whole career, but right now I just want to play baseball."

Reyes' decision may make staying in Queens an unlikely scenario. New York's financial mishaps over the last few years have been documented, with ownership even going as far as agreeing to sell a minority share of the team to David Einhorn. That could prevent the Mets from breaking the bank to keep the 28- year-old Reyes.

Yes, New York will have a small exclusive window to negotiate with Reyes after the World Series, but don't think Reyes is making this decision now with the intention of quickly re-upping with the Mets. The shortstop will most certainly relish in the spotlight of a bidding war for his services come season's end.

Jose Reyes will most certainly relish in the spotlight of a bidding war for his services come season's end.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said it wasn't a surprise that Reyes wanted to put off contract talks and that he still hopes to keep the three- time All-Star in the mix.

"It is Jose's desire to postpone any negotiations until after the season. He wants to focus on baseball, he wants to focus on what's going on on the field," Alderson said. "So with that in mind, we will respect his wishes and hopefully pick up negotiations at the end of the season."

So how much will Reyes cost? Whether chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon believes it or not, Reyes will certainly come in at the Carl Crawford range -- seven years and $142 million. Crawford hit .307 with 19 homers, 90 RBI, 110 runs scored and 47 steals in his final season with the Rays before joining the Red Sox. Reyes, meanwhile, currently leads the National League with a .336 average and 103 hits heading into play on Wednesday. He is also tops in the majors with 12 triples and is second with 26 steals.

Injuries have hindered Reyes before; he has dealt with hamstring and ankle ailments in his career while missing time a season ago with oblique and back issues. However, the Dominican-born speedster is healthy now and isn't worried about hurting his offseason stock by playing out the $11 million option portion of his bargain four-year, $23.25 million deal signed prior to 2007.

"Injuries are part of the game. Right now I don't worry about injuries because I'm 100 percent," said Reyes.

There is another factor that Reyes may not have considered. With New York 10 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East, the Mets may have to make the tough decision of dealing him away prior to the non-waiver trade deadline if they start to feel they won't be able to retain his talents.

Alderson, though, doesn't think New York's success, or lack of, will impact what the team does with Reyes.

"I think if we're in it, it would be hard to see us trade Jose Reyes. If we're out of it? I don't think being out of it dictates anything," he said.

Talent like Reyes doesn't come along very often. He set a club record this year by reaching the 100-hit mark in just 66 games and is just the third player in 80 seasons to have 11 triples in his team's first 60 games. The nine-year pro is also batting .376 over his past 26 games with 28 runs scored, as if trying to prove that point.

"I just want to continue to play," Reyes said. "We're going to have plenty of time in the offseason to make this happen, so right now I just want to play. ... I'm playing good right now and I want to continue that way."

Playing big in a contract year isn't anything new. Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, among baseball's leaders with 20 homers and 63 RBI, is certainly relishing in his last year prior to free agency, while current Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre has made a living putting up gaudy numbers prior to hitting the open market.

That isn't to say that Reyes will flame out after inking his future big deal, but sticking with New York long-term is now completely up in the air.

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