Reyes: Not an easy decision to leave Mets
Former shortstop introduced by Marlins at Winter Meetings
DALLAS -- Sporting a Marlins cap and jersey at the Hilton Anatole on Wednesday, Jose Reyes did not seem necessarily angry at the Mets, nor sad, nor even disheartened -- though his attitude did contain elements of all three. More than anything, Reyes simply felt rejected by the only franchise he had known.
"I always said I wanted to go back to play there, but they didn't do anything to have me there," Reyes said, not long after the Marlins officially introduced him as their next shortstop. "After that, there was nothing really I could do."
In retrospect, there was little chance the Mets could have changed Reyes' decision, short of offering him significantly more money, which the front office was both unable and unwilling to do. And yet the sheer lack of contact between the two sides made Reyes feel unwanted by the same organization that once signed him as a 16-year-old prospect out of the Dominican Republic.
"Jose always hoped that they were going to be serious," agent Peter Greenberg said of the Mets. "But we had a lot of money on the table and a very good situation for Jose, and we decided it wasn't worth the risk to wait any longer."
The Mets contend that they did all they could, short of matching Miami's six-year, $106 million offer. Manager Terry Collins spoke to Reyes at length after the final game of the regular season, telling him how badly he wanted the shortstop to return. And though general manager Sandy Alderson was nothing if not aloof throughout the free-agent process, he did say publicly on multiple occasions that retaining Reyes was his top priority.
But Reyes nonetheless took issue with the fact that the Mets proceeded in sharp contrast to the Marlins, who met him at 12:01 a.m. on the first day that they could legally talk to him, who later flew him down to Miami on owner Jeffrey Loria's private jet and who spoke to Greenberg almost daily throughout the first four weeks of the free-agent signing period.
The Mets, by comparison, touched base with Reyes' representatives shortly after the season ended, then had few additional conversations until the days leading up to his signing.
"It was pretty apparent between how badly the Marlins wanted him and were showing him how they wanted him, and the Mets were kind of laying back waiting," Greenberg said. "That made a big difference to Jose."
"If you're asking whether I should have sent him a box of chocolates, perhaps I should have done that," Alderson said. "But on the other hand, the box of chocolates wouldn't have cost $106 million."
And that's just it -- in the end, as Alderson noted, this was "less about style than substance." The Mets have been proceeding with both a short-term budget in mind and a long-term plan for financial flexibility, and Reyes fit neither of them. His $17 million annual salary would have crippled Alderson's ability to shore up next year's bullpen, as he ultimately did Tuesday with the acquisitions of Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez. And Reyes' desire for at least a six-year contract would have handicapped the Mets long into their next generation of homegrown talent.
By the time the Mets are ready to compete perennially for division titles again, Reyes might have already been on the back end of his contract, operating on some unknown percentage of his current worth. Given their current financial situation, the Mets could not afford to assume that risk.
Such is the business end of baseball, which all parties understand. Reyes gets it. Collins gets it. Alderson gets it. Greenberg gets it.
But there is an emotional aspect to the entire situation that, with Reyes donning his Marlins jersey for the first time Wednesday, seemed both raw and fresh. In signing with Miami, Reyes plans to uproot his family from Long Island, settle down in South Florida and -- more superficially, perhaps -- cut his trademark dreadlocks. He will part ways with longtime teammate David Wright and abandon his quest to win a World Series title with the only franchise he has known.
This was not his ideal outcome -- even with a Marlins cap on his head Wednesday, Reyes made that abundantly clear, lamenting that he wished the Mets had been more aggressive than they were.
"Jose said all season long, and after the postseason it was the same thing: his first choice would be to stay in New York," Greenberg said. "I think the Marlins knew that, so that's why they made the statement that they did. They did everything right from the start."
It was not until last weekend that the Mets began accelerating their talks with Greenberg, sensing a slim chance to tip negotiations back in their favor. But after discussing vague contract parameters with Greenberg and his associates, Alderson came away from those talks believing Reyes was lost.
"When we almost got close to making a deal with the Marlins, that's when [the Mets] called," Reyes said. "But they called for nothing, because they didn't offer anything, so it's kind of weird."
"I know he was hurt because he was a Met, a lifelong Met," said Collins. "I know he loved New York. I'm sure when he sits down and cools down, he's got to realize everybody loved him. He's a great teammate. He's great on the club. We never want to admit it, but there's a business side. That, obviously, is the part that took over."
For now, however, the emotion remains raw, coloring the story in varying ways.
"I spent my whole life playing in New York, so it was not an easy decision," Reyes said. "But what can I do? They didn't show me anything. In Miami, they were there from the beginning."