There'll be no shortage of attention for Reyes

There'll be no shortage of attention for Reyes

First basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder may generate the most free-agent buzz, but Jose Reyes might generate the most action on the open market this offseason.

Pujols and Fielder top the lists of available position players, but relatively few teams can put enough money where their mouths are to enter those conversations, and most of the clubs that do don't have a vacancy at first base. But a lot of teams are shopping for shortstops. Ergo, it's a bull market for Reyes.

The Mets would like to retain him, but they face a lot of competition. By declining to deal Reyes last July -- a month they finished 13 1/2 games out of first place, even before going 22-32 over the final two months -- the Mets indicated their commitment to do everything possible to re-sign him.

There was a note of irony to Reyes staying in Queens through the summer's Trade Deadline: He'd spent the first half of July on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, adding another injury to a track record that might concern interested teams.

Also, how much will prospective bidders read into Reyes' decision to bunt-and-bolt for the National League batting title? If you need a refresher: He led off the season's final game with a bunt single, then called it a day and a season with his average a safe distance from that of runner-up Ryan Braun.

Those factors entered into the Mets' stated willingness to allow Reyes to test the market, to let other teams set the price, before they come in with their own offer.

For all of their struggles, the Mets have clearly been a better team with Reyes than without him. The numbers since his 2003 debut are revealing: The Mets have played .531 ball (488-431) when he has been on the field and .442 (95-120) when he has not.

Reyes is the market's best but not only notable shortstop. Yuniesky Betancourt's option was declined by the Brewers. Alex Gonzalez was another regular in Atlanta. Then there's Jimmy Rollins, one of the icons of the Phillies' five-year reign atop the NL East.

At 33, J-Roll is looking for a five-year deal. At 29, Reyes is looking for something longer and richer. The Phillies have the funds but may not be willing to give Rollins as much rope. The Mets may be looking for a shorter commitment.

Wouldn't it be something, NL East, if those two swapped teams? Don't rule it out.

2011 awards
MLB.com takes a glance at each position entering the Hot Stove season.

SP: Plenty of mid-tier arms
RP: Closers flood market
1B: Pujols, Prince elite
2B: Thin but reliable
3B: Aramis the lone big bat
SS: Attention on Reyes
OF: Bargains available
DH: Ortiz the top target
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Hot Stove MLBlog
Hot Stove Tracker

Looking to buy: Three NL East clubs have their 2011 starters in the pool and on another (Marlins), incumbent Hanley Ramirez has volunteered to move if someone like Reyes was added. ... The Nationals seem eager to move beyond Ian Desmond's 57 errors the past two seasons, and they also need a leadoff hitter. ... The Tigers would love a front-line shortstop who gives them the luxury of moving Jhonny Peralta back to third base, his primary position in 2009-10. ... Seeking a veteran shortstop who would also add some punch, the Giants could be in the market. A homecoming by Oakland-native Rollins is possible if the NL East lets him get away. ... The Yankees are likely to bag one of the seasoned guys for their bench, allowing them to give Derek Jeter more days off.

Top dog: The bark belongs to Reyes, a reigning batting champ -- the Mets' first, and the first free-agent batting king since Willie McGee in 1990 -- who is one of only two free-agent shortstops under 30 (Ronny Cedeno being the other). Were there a department store for free-agent shortstops, Reyes would be on the main floor, with everyone else in the basement. And, considering the hot button pushed during the summer by owner Fred Wilpon's he-won't-get-Carl-Crawford-money comment, wouldn't it be ironic if Reyes was signed by the same club that created that currency, Boston?

Best of the rest: Rollins reversed a steady three-year decline since his 2007 MVP season and offers an upgrade to numerous clubs. ... The Brewers were disappointed with Betancourt's overall game, but his power numbers (13 homers, 68 RBIs) were the NL's best at the position after Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki.

Worth a shot: Atlanta's Jack Wilson suffered through an injury-wrecked season and hasn't played in more than 106 games since 2007, but he is a terrific, underrated defensive shortstop. ... Jamey Carroll was miscast as a regular with the Dodgers (17 RBIs in 452 at-bats), but he would be a fantastic late-game option on an NL contender. ... The Cardinals' Rafael Furcal seems to be an old 33, but that's because he was such an old 22, becoming a key Atlanta cog at that young age; his arm can compensate for whatever he has lost in range. ... Gonzalez had an on-base percentage of .270 but may not do enough on defense to make up for that.

Potential class of 2013: Arizona's Stephen Drew stands out -- if he re-establishes his value after the severely broken right ankle that cut his 2011 season in half, the D-backs would be likely to exercise his $10 million option for 2013. Several veterans on this offseason's list will be signing one-year contracts, which will have them back in the mix a year from now.

Tom Singer is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow @Tom_Singer on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.