Reyes won't talk extension till season's end

Reyes won't talk extension till season's end

Reyes won't talk extension till season's end
NEW YORK -- Upon returning from a recent trip to Japan, Peter Greenberg, one of the chief agents for Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, traveled to Long Island this week for a meeting at his star client's home. Along with Chris Leible, another agent, Greenberg spent two hours discussing business matters with Reyes, before returning a phone call from Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.

The news that Greenberg delivered was neither surprising to the Mets, nor particularly disappointing. Instead, Alderson said, it was expected: Reyes, a pending free agent, will not negotiate a new contract until after this season.

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

"Right now, I don't want any distractions," Reyes said. "I just want to continue to play. We're going to have plenty of time in the offseason to make this happen."

The direct result of Reyes' decision is that the Mets will have no real sense of how much money their shortstop is seeking as they approach next month's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Though that may result in more trade offers for Reyes, Alderson supplemented Tuesday's news with his strongest comments yet regarding his shortstop's immediate future with the club.

"If we're in it, it would be hard for me to see us trading Jose Reyes," Alderson said, referring to the playoff race. "If we're out of it? I don't think being out of it dictates anything."

In other words, Alderson does not intend to trade his star shortstop unless the Mets fall out of contention over the next month, and -- not or -- another team blows them away with an offer.

Still, even if Reyes stays, he will almost certainly test free agency next winter for the first time in his career. Though the Mets would have five days following the World Series to negotiate exclusively with Reyes, teams rarely complete deals during that window.

Reyes' representatives did not immediately return phone messages Tuesday evening seeking comment.

"It's very difficult to predict right now what will happen in the next couple weeks," Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said earlier Tuesday. "That's why there's a deadline that's out there, and when that deadline approaches, I'm sure Sandy will have a plan that he'll present. He's very good at being persuasive at what he'd like to do."

Postponing contract negotiations will allow Reyes to focus solely on baseball for the remainder of this season, as well as eventually give him an opportunity to increase his salary through free agency's open-market system. But the strategy also comes complete with risk. After missing much of the past two seasons battling a litany of injuries, Reyes must remain healthy for the rest of this season in order to cash in on his ever-growing contract potential.

"It's not about the money," Reyes said. "It's about me being comfortable. I don't want any distractions on my mind. I just want to play baseball."

So far, he has done that with aplomb. Fully healthy for the first half of this season, Reyes has reaffirmed his status as one of the game's elite talents, entering Tuesday's play with a league-leading .341 average, 103 hits, 12 triples and 54 runs scored. He also ranked second with 26 stolen bases, ninth with a .517 slugging percentage and 11th with a .385 on-base percentage. He is the most significant draw for a team that has seen its home attendance drop 12 percent since last season.

Regardless of circumstance, the Mets would like to keep him in Queens.

"His situation is not a function of whether we're winning or losing on a short-term basis here in July," Alderson said. "His future with us is not going to be dictated by how we play, good or bad, over the next month."

Reyes, whose children attend school in the New York suburbs on Long Island, has also made it clear that he would like to stay -- though not necessarily at a discount. Currently in the option season of the four-year, $23.25 million contract he signed in 2006, Reyes -- even despite his injuries -- has represented one of baseball's foremost bargains over the past half-decade. This offseason will offer the shortstop his first -- and almost certainly his last -- opportunity to cash in with a multi-year megadeal.

Though team owner Fred Wilpon said in a New Yorker article published last month that Reyes will not earn "Carl Crawford money" on the open market, his current level of play has hinted at the opposite. When Reyes hits free agency, he will be one year younger than Crawford was when he signed a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Red Sox at age 29. He will also potentially be coming off a better offensive season, while playing a more valued defensive position.

Though Reyes will always be more of an injury risk than Crawford was at the time of his signing, Reyes and his agents may ultimately be able to entertain similar contract offers -- either from the Mets or others.

"I still want to be here," Reyes said. "I've said it before: I want to finish my career here. But there's still a long way to go, so we'll see what happens."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.