12/07/11 9:16 PM EST
New Marlin Reyes embraces Miami approach
Shortstop says he felt wanted from start of free-agent period
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Literally at the start of the free-agent signing period -- 12:01 a.m. ET on Nov. 3 -- Marlins officials met with Reyes and his agent, Peter Greenberg, at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City.
Expressing how strongly they wanted the four-time All-Star shortstop, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria displayed to Reyes the new Miami uniform, complete with the No. 7 and "Reyes" on back. On Wednesday, Reyes once again was in a Miami uniform, this time as the latest member of a transforming Marlins franchise.
"They showed that they really want me," Reyes said while donning his white jersey and black cap during a news conference at the Hilton Anatole, site of the Winter Meetings. "[This is] a good opportunity to win, and I like to win. I don't like to lose."
Signing Reyes to a six-year, $106 million contract, with an option for a seventh season, is another display of Loria's commitment to build a championship-caliber team in Miami.
"They met with me at 12:01, and they showed me their plan that they have," Reyes said. "It showed me they wanted to win, and I want to win, too. That's why I made the decision to play in Miami."
The addition of Reyes means Hanley Ramirez will slide over to third base.
"Hanley is a key to our team," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "He has been. He is a unique talent, and we recognize that. We recognize his ability. We recognize his achievement already in a very young career."
Signing Reyes also comes two days after All-Star closer Heath Bell was introduced on a three-year, $27 million deal, with an option for 2015.
Reyes, 28, is the reigning National League batting champion, coming off a season in which he hit a career-best .337 for the New York Mets and was named to his fourth NL All-Star team. The switch-hitter also set career bests for on-base percentage (.384) and slugging percentage (.493), while compiling 101 runs scored, 31 doubles, 16 triples and 39 stolen bases.
"We now have at the top of our lineup a four-time All-Star, a batting champion and one of the fastest men in the game," Beinfest said.
Since his first full season in the Majors in 2005, Reyes leads all players in triples (93) and is second in stolen bases (338). He won the NL Silver Slugger Award in 2006, when he registered a career-high 19 home runs and 81 RBIs with a .300 average. He also earned the NL Player of the Month Award for April 2007. Reyes was named to the NL All-Star team in 2006, '07, '10 and '11, being voted as the NL starter at shortstop in '07.
The hard sell by the Marlins, led by Loria calling the shots, convinced Reyes to relocate from New York to South Beach.
Loria made his fortune as an art dealer, and he takes pride in creatively building projects. He is making an all-out push to make the Marlins a playoff team in 2012.
Under Loria's direction in 2003, the Marlins won the World Series, the second in club history. And in '12, Loria's biggest baseball project -- the team's state-of-the-art 37,000-seat, retractable-roof ballpark -- will open.
As the Marlins' new leadoff hitter, Reyes projects to be the first Miami player to step up to the plate on April 4 in the season opener against the Cardinals.
"In my other world, it's about putting things together and making things work," Loria said, referring to his art business. "[Reyes] is a great athlete, a great player, an energizer."
Loria targeted Reyes as the first of many high-profile free agents the team coveted.
"We had planned to go after a number of people," Loria said. "But the first one was easy because we were in New York already. And Jose was going to be in New York. He lives in Long Island and he was coming back to New York."
At the Carlyle Hotel, Reyes was impressed with the Marlins' persistence at 12:01 a.m.
"The owner had [a jersey]," Reyes said. "He had it under his coat. When he took his coat off, he had my No. 7 jersey. I said, 'It's going to be interesting.' Now, I'm wearing the jersey, it's going to be good."
Reyes passed his physical on Tuesday and he made the rounds in Dallas on Wednesday, conducting interviews with a number of news outlets. In moving on from New York, Reyes thanked the Mets for giving him his first big league opportunity.
"This is a business," Reyes said. "I really appreciate that they gave me the opportunity to play professional baseball. It's something I'm never going to forget. They were the first team I played for in the big leagues, but it's time for me to move on. I'm part of a new family now."
Reyes is an immensely popular player. That was evident on Wednesday as he passed through the lobby of the Hilton to attend his news conference. Along the way, a man yelled, "Jose, I am a Mets fan, and I still love you."
Turning with a smile, Reyes said, "Thanks, man."
Signing Reyes sparked an immediate spike in Marlins merchandise in South Florida stores.
"The stocked Reyes' merchandise has sold out," Marlins president David Samson said. "It's being restocked. It was available today, gone today and back tonight. Hopefully, we got it back."
Marlins merchandise is available on marlins.com.
After years of being a face of the Mets, Reyes now is ready to adapt to his lifestyle changes in Miami. He has agreed to groom his hair to conform with team policy. While he sported dreadlocks on Wednesday, he has no problem cutting them at the time Spring Training begins.
"No problem at all," the shortstop said. "It doesn't affect me and the way I play the game. If I've got to cut it off, no problem."
Reyes immediately becomes one of the faces of the Miami franchise. The Marlins have a new look, new name and new revenue streams created by their new ballpark.
Reyes saw the team's vision when he visited the new ballpark and ate lunch at Joe's Stone Crab on South Beach a few weeks ago. Reyes' visit to South Florida left a strong impression.
"They gave us the whole tour," Greenberg said. "The dugout, the field. They showed him his locker. He had to pick out his locker."
"You saw the plan that they had for the future," Reyes said. "New stadium in Miami. They showed me they want to win -- this year. You can see what they've been able to do. They brought in Heath Bell, and they bring in me. That showed me a lot."