Back in April we visited the possibility of free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes possibly joining the Washington Nationals next season. While those rumors had initially died off when the Mets seemed to be leaning toward making a long term commitment to their star-shortstop in June, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that some sources say the Nationals will be serious players for the NL’s second leading batter.
“Although it remains unclear if Washington will ultimately be interested in Jose Reyes, some Mets insiders predict that the Nationals (along with the Angels, Red Sox and possibly Giants) will become strong contenders for the shortstop, whom the Mets hope to re-sign. They are certainly the only potential bidders for Reyes within the division.
The Reyes-to-Washington chatter does not stem entirely from the Mets; earlier this season, at least one longtime Nationals player lobbied ownership to pursue Reyes, according to a person familiar with that conversation.”
In April we wrote that Reyes would be a great fit for Washington. The Nats are desperately in need of a true leadoff hitter, and Reyes would provide not only a solid bat at the top of the lineup, but also be a top-notch run producer with star-power who has the potential to push them over the edge into competition. His defense is an upgrade over Ian Desmond and at 28, he should be in the prime of his career.
Things have changed since April though, which makes this a much harder potential move to endorse. First is the resurgence of Ian Desmond, who after an abysmal first half of the season has hit .281/.337/.418 with four home runs since the All-Star break. Early on he was simply looked at as a liability for the Nats but with his improved defense and his offensive production nearing adequacy, keeping Desmond at shortstop in 2012 is starting to look more and more realistic.
Second, while Reyes has been amazing this season, his lack of consistency and his health woes have to worry any team thinking about inking him to a long term deal. Despite his .330/.372/.496 batting line, he played just eight games in the month of August, and is on pace to play less than 140 games for the third season in a row. For a player whose game is built around his tremendous athleticism, nagging injuries are a major problem.
No one is questioning the immediate impact that Reyes would provide in Washington. With him slated at shortstop every night the Nats become immediate contenders, even in the National League East. The real question Nats fans need to be asking themselves though is, what would the cost of that instant offense and star power really mean? Reyes is likely to garner a $100 million deal this offseason, an amount of cash the Nats are rumored to have on hand. But with the injury risk that Reyes possesses, can the club really afford to shell out another gigantic contract to another player that may not produce, like they did to Jayson Werth last season?
The club still needs to give Ryan Zimmerman a long term extension, which will likely total well over $100 million, and at some point young stars like Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper, and Stephen Strasburg will need major extensions as well. It would seem then that the Washington may be better suited investing more wisely in their future. Anthony Rendon has a chance to be an impact infielder in the next two seasons and with Danny Espinosa’s versatility around the bag, they certainly can find a way to squeeze him into the lineup.
It’s not an easy thing to say, but Jose Reyes in Washington in 2012 may not be the best option for the Nationals going forward. The team has a bright future, but adding one of the most exciting players in baseball may not be part of it.