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Is future free agent Reyes a greater risk or reward?


If Reyes hits the market, his spate of injuries the past three seasons will give some GMs pause. (Getty Images)  
If Reyes hits the market, his spate of injuries the past three seasons will give some GMs pause. (Getty Images)  

NEW YORK -- Yes, there's a risk in signing Jose Reyes to a long-term deal.

Just remember that there's also a risk in not signing him.

The downside to signing Jose Reyes is you're going to worry about him getting hurt. The upside is that every night he plays, the other manager is going to worry about how to beat him.

"Good player," Padres manager Bud Black said Monday. "Great player. One of the best players in the game ... when he's healthy and doing his thing.

"He's the closest thing to Rickey Henderson in this era."

We're talking about this now because Reyes will be a free agent at season's end. .. and because he went back on the disabled list Monday with a hamstring injury, for the second time in two months.

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Some people were quick to say Monday that this injury will cost Reyes millions of dollars this winter, because of the doubt it creates and because it feeds the perception that he's always hurt. I'm not so sure about that.

For one thing, the free-agent market is notoriously unpredictable. For another, it only takes one or two teams deciding that no one else out there can offer what Reyes can.

Try finding another game-changing leadoff hitter who can play shortstop at a high level.

And try finding a team that wouldn't improve with Reyes atop the lineup.

I would hate to be the guy who commits to Reyes and then has to explain to my owner why the guy he gave $20 million a year is on the DL. But I'd hate to be the guy who passes on him and tries to explain why he's winning an MVP award for the team that beats me.

As Reyes said Monday, other players suffer hamstring pulls, too. As he pointedly observed, Carl Crawford went on the DL with a hamstring injury a couple of months back.

Reyes' agent, Peter Greenberg, admitted that his client "is not Cal Ripken," but also said the perception that he's injury-prone is exaggerated.

"If you look over the course of time and compare him to other players, he's as healthy or healthier than most," Greenberg said.

You can argue that point if you want. Greenberg understandably includes Reyes' first four full big-league seasons, when averaged 158 games a season and twice led the league in plate appearances. Even last year, Reyes came to the plate more than 600 times. Even with the two DL trips this year, he could approach 600 plate appearances again.

You can see whatever trend you want. You can talk yourself into believing whatever you want to believe.

It's not hard to see some team deciding that Jose Reyes is the guy who will make the difference between winning big and not winning at all.

And in a game that is also about entertainment and selling tickets, Reyes is an easy sell.

"He's one [player] I'd pay to see," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

How much would the Mets pay to see him play at Citi Field next year? That's a question that might well depend as much on the owners' financial situation as it does on any judgment of Reyes' worth.

Asked Monday if Reyes' injuries will affect his value, general manager Sandy Alderson was non-committal.

"There's some history," Alderson admitted. "I think you have to look at [his injury history] as part of the package, and evaluate accordingly."

Alderson would no doubt prefer that the history scares away some possible suitors, or at least drags down the final price a bit. It's believed that the Mets won't go to seven years on a Reyes deal, and would strongly prefer not to go to six.

But Reyes didn't even want to hear an offer earlier this year, and he said Monday that he still won't negotiate until after the season.

Until then, it's hard to know where the market will go. Until then, it's hard to know what affect this hamstring problem will have.

"Will it affect his value?" Greenberg asked, repeating a question. "Who knows at this point?"

We don't know. We can only guess.

We know there's a risk in signing him, just as there's a risk with any free agent. We know the risk of injury is scary.

But we also know that the potential reward is great.

"When you offer the type of money he's going to be offered, you'd rest easier if he's not on the DL," Black said. "But when you sign him and he's healthy, you're going to say you're glad you signed him.

"Every night that he's healthy, you sleep awfully good."

Would you take that risk?

I know it's not my money, but I think I would.


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