Jose Reyes is a mess right now. You know it. I know it. He knows it. And, more importantly, the front office knows it, which is why they're already building contingency plans at third base, despite it being just 15 games in to the season...
According to people close to the team, the Mets are not married to playing Reyes at third base, though you wouldn't know it from listening to Terry Collins talk to reporters after the game.
The plan before the season was to have Reyes fill in at third base until David Wright returned from the disabled list. Then, once Wright was back, Reyes would shift to being a super utility guy playing most days (either at third, shortstop or second base) while continuing to bat leadoff.
However, it's not an ideal world and Reyes is struggling in his current role....
Sep 4, 2016; Reyes (7) slides into third base at Citi Field. Credit: Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
In just 53 at-bats through the season's first 14 games, Reyes has only five hits. He's played in every game, while batting .094 with a .186 OBP. He also has just one extra base hit, no stolen bases and has scored only three times...
Tuesday against the Phillies, he was unable to make a key catch in the eighth inning, thanks in large part to Travis d'Arnaud's mental lapse. And he should have been picked off first base late in the same game, but the throw from second was off line. Worse, when the initial pitch ended up in the dirt, Reyes actually hesitated and second guessed advancing, despite having a big lead, terrific jump and 488 career stolen bases.
The point is, be it at the plate, on the bases or in the field, Jose has recently become timid and chaotic, while clearly questioning himself. He's not in jeopardy of being cut, because it's too early to quit on him and he's only being paid the league minimum salary. However, all in all, it's not a good look for him and it's having a negative impact on the team.
Mar 1, 2017; Flores (4) chats with fans at Roger Dean Stadium. Credit: Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The problem is that there's no ideal solution. It's easy for me to say he shouldn't be playing every day, but what are the realistic alternatives?
1) Put Wilmer Flores at third...
Flores is a bigger risk in the field at third base, and he's actually batting worse than Reyes this season against right-handed pitching. I'm fine playing Flores there when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound, but he's hardly a better option the other 80 percent of the season.
2) Lean on T.J. Rivera...
Rivera would be a decent, temporary solution, but I still don't see him as an everyday guy. He, like Flores, is viewed by the organization as someone to rotate around the infield. So, I can't see them locking him in at the hot corner... at least not yet.
In 17 at-bats with Triple-A Las Vegas this season, the 27-year-old Rivera is batting .297, while playing the outfield and third and second base.
3) Don't be surprised, be ready...
The most extreme solution would be to promote baseball's best prospect, shortstop Amed Rosario, while moving Reyes to the bench and shifting Asdrubal Cabrera to third.
Rosario, 21, has little left to prove at Triple-A. He looked terrific in spring training, while leaving a positive impression on Terry Collins, coaches and veteran players.
Mar 10, 2017; Rosario throws to first during at Champion Stadium. Credit: Dill-USA TODAY Sports
"He could win a Gold Glove as a rookie, he's that talented in the field," a friend with a rival organization's player development department told me in early-March. "He's the best defensive infielder they have, including their guys in the big leagues."
In 12 games at Triple-A this season, Rosario is batting .362 with three stolen bases and five RBI, though he has yet to pick up an extra base hit.
However, the impression I got in St. Lucie was that Rosario will not be called up to the Mets before late-May, unless of course the big-league team is left with no other choice. Of course, that was said to me when hope and optimism were still in the air, circling around a team full of middle infielders. So, it's possible things have changed...
Sandy Alderson and his staff have done a good job the last few seasons holding prospects down until the player is fully ready to make the jump to MLB.
In part, this is because they want to keep each guy down long enough to gain an extra year of service time. But, also because they require having a set number of minor-league innings and games to better judge how a player will translate his game in Citi Field.
This strategy has mostly worked out for everyone involved, especially in the case of their pitchers. However, given Rosario's status and prominence in baseball, and given the situation with Reyes and Wright and the team's lofty expectations for 2017, maybe Alderson could be convinced to make an exception this one time...
4) Sign Kelly Johnson before having to trade for him...
The Mets traded for Kelly Johnson each of the last two summers. The Braves reportedly had interest in signing him again, but he is still a free agent, despite it being two weeks in to the season.
In 131 games with the Mets the last two years, Johnson, 34, hit .260 with a .319 OBP, 14 home runs, 14 doubles, 25 stolen bases and 37 RBI, while playing all four infield positions and left field. He's literally exactly what they need right now, and he's currently unemployed.
He's not the greatest hitter to ever wear a Mets uniform. However, he was their best pinch hitter the last two seasons. He plays all four infield positions. He enjoys playing in New York. He's played through two pennant races. And, he's considered a clubhouse leader by Collins.
Instead of waiting three months to trade another prospect and get him just before the trade deadline, the Mets could simply sign him now.
Of course, Johnson will not arrive in baseball shape, so he'll likely need time in St. Lucie. In total, he'd probably need at least a month to be ready, which means he's not an immediate fix. But, if this current situation with Reyes continues to drag on, and especially if Wright suffers another setback, it would certainly be nice to have Johnson in the mix... again.
5) Overpay in trade...
It's incredibly rare to see meaningful deals get done in April involving significant talent, which is what the Mets would need to do to beat out the above options.
The two guys that makes the most sense are Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas, both of whom have strong track records and are set to be free agents at the end of this season.
In March, Chicago's GM Rick Hahn told the NY Post's Joel Sherman that he's likely to move Frazier, closer David Robertson, and possibly 1B Jose Abreu at some point this season.
"The long term is where the priority of the front office is right now," Hahn explained.
However, the White Sox are currently 7-6, just one game behind their division leader.
Similarly, while Sherman was told the Royals will look to trade Moustakas and others this summer, it will only happen if they're not contending for a playoff spot. The Royals are below .500, but also just one game behind the White Sox.
Frazier (21) hits a walk off single against the Seattle Mariners during the ninth inning at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The point is, it's early... way too early to consider this level trade, in which Alderson will almost certainly be asked to overpay with prospects he may need on his own roster later this summer.
What would I do?
I'd always start Wilmer at third base if a left-handed pitcher is on the mound. Then, I'd promote Rivera to add another utility guy to the bench, while getting Reyes rest to clear his head. I'd also re-sign Kelly Johnson, because why not? What else does he have going on?
Lastly, I'd get on the phone with the Royals and White Sox and re-stoke that fire some time in July. When Wright is away again and Reyes has a random injury, maybe the Mets can swing a deal for the stretch run and acquire an impact bat on the infield.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...