Why are the Mets keeping Jose Reyes around?
Mets infielder Jose Reyes has had by far his worst season to date, entering Tuesday’s action batting .132/.179/.189. He didn’t record his first hit until April 21, a span of 21 plate appearances. Things haven’t improved much since then. He has exactly two hits in the month of May, spanning 23 trips to the dish.
The Mets have no plans to get rid of him anytime soon, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. Manager Mickey Callaway said, “That’s not, probably, my decision to make. We signed Reyes to do a job. I have to continue to put him out there to allow him to do that job. I think there’s more baseball left in Jose. But I don’t really make all those roster decisions. I obviously have feedback. As far as I’m concerned, Jose’s a big part of this team. I’ll continue to go out there and allow him to try to have some success.”
As Matt Ehalt of The Record notes, Reyes has supporters within the Mets organization, so this is why he’s been granted more leash. But even some in the media have gone to bat for Reyes, like Newsday’s David Lennon, who tweeted, "#Mets are getting nothing from Cespedes, Bruce and Frazier while three-fifths of their rotation has been lousy, yet Jose Reyes is the problem.”
Well, yeah, Reyes is the problem. Using wRC+, an offense-based statistic found on FanGraphs, Reyes comes in at a measly 2. For reference, 100 is average. Yoenis Cespedes is found at 115, Jay Bruce is at 88, and Todd Frazier is at 118. Furthermore, those three players are all signed beyond the 2018 season and for significantly more money than Reyes.
FanGraphs values Reyes at 0.6 wins below a replacement-level player. Baseball Reference’s version of WAR essentially agrees, putting him at 0.5 wins below replacement. For the uninitiated, a replacement-level player is a theoretical player who contributes zero wins to his team over the course of a full season. By comparison, an average player contributes about two wins over a full season. To put faces to the different levels of production, Brad Miller was replacement-level last season for the Rays, according to FanGraphs. Joe Panik was average for the Giants in 2017. Darwin Barney was -0.6 wins below replacement for the Blue Jays last year. Over the course of a full season, Reyes projects to be between 1.5 and two full wins below replacement.
The Mets reportedly like having Reyes in the clubhouse and he has apparently been mentoring Amed Rosario, according to Callaway, Ehalt reported. Rosario hasn’t exactly been great this year, posting a .642 OPS. Is Reyes’ clubhouse presence and mentoring of Rosario worth the roster spot and losing as many as two wins across a full season? There are other options out there, like Jose Bautista, who was recently released by the Braves. Bautista hasn’t exactly been great himself, but he has performed better than Reyes and would give the Mets flexibility with the roster spot since he provides depth both in the outfield where the Mets are short (Juan Lagares is likely out for the season and Cespedes has a hip issue) and at third base (Frazier is injured).
Perhaps the most important detail about Reyes is that he was arrested three years ago for allegedly assaulting his wife in Maui. He allegedly grabbed her by the throat and shoved her into a sliding glass door in their hotel room. The charges were dropped because his wife did not cooperate with authorities. Victims of domestic violence often don’t end up cooperating with authorities because they fear more punishment from their abuser, so that the charges were dropped doesn’t necessarily exonerate Reyes, particularly in the court of public opinion. Despite whatever perceived benefits Reyes provides in the clubhouse, he is a man of questionable character. While still gross, one can understand why a team might keep a star player around (such as Aroldis Chapman) even if he was allegedly involved in a domestic violence incident.
Whoever Reyes’ backers are in the Mets organization must really like him for whatever reason. He is providing no measurable positives to the team and the one attribute some claim he brings conveniently can’t be measured.