While we wait for Jose Reyes to recover from an injury that was either misdiagnosed or re-aggravated, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney grimly suggests the Mets’ shortstop’s career travails are analogous to those of oft-injured former Cubs hurler Mark Prior, observing “they (the Cubs) let themselves be held hostage, in effect, by Prior’s potential.”
There are talent evaluators with other teams who have their doubts (about Reyes. They see a diminishment of range, for whatever reason, and some signs of erosion in his defensive play. They point out that even at its highest, Reyes’ on-base percentage still falls in the range of .355-.360, which is good but far from the level of an elite hitter — and they wonder if he’ll actually get better.
“I don’t see a lot of evolution there,” said one scout this week. “Jimmy Rollins struggled early in his career, but then he just kept getting better and better, and I’m not really seeing that in Reyes.”
Rest assured, most teams would love to have Reyes, and even if the Mets determine, internally, that Reyes will never play consistently at a higher level, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should trade him.
But waiting for Reyes to develop into a superstar might turn out to be their search for the great white whale; there’s a chance that it might never be satisfied. He might already be as good as he’s going to get. Going forward, the Mets should not assume that Reyes is going to be an unmovable foundation piece. They should not assume that they can count on greatness from him, because there have been too many periods when he has been much less than that.
Reyes’ latest health woes are a major concern, granted. His occasional lapses of concentration, though chronicled in detail by Sir Mike Francesca, are no more or less troubling than Jimmy Rollins’ sporadic spells in Charlie Manuel’s doghouse. But who is this Jose Reyes Buster Olney claims to be familiar with? The real Jose averaged greater than 158 games per season between 2005 and 2008, a record of durability that compares awfully well next to Mark Prior. During that same period, Reyes compiled annual averages of more than 194 hits, 113 runs scored, 16 triples, 64 steals and 64 RBI’s out of the leadoff spot. You could easily make a case that Reyes deserved to finish far higher than no. 7 in the 2006 All-Star voting, and a sulkly second half of ’07 aside, he’s not merely a marvel to watch (as Olney readily acknowledges), the Mets’ other big guns are highly dependent on him to bolster their own numbers. “Waiting for Reyes to develop into a superstar”? By what objective measure hasn’t he been one for a few years?