NEW YORK -- It has often been said that the Mets go as shortstop Jose Reyes goes. Now, the Mets must decide whether they want to tie their franchise's future to that credo or whether it is time for Reyes to, well, go.
Whatever you think about Reyes as a player, he is an asset to the Mets. It just might be that he is most valuable elsewhere.
The Reyes decision -- do you pick up his option, sign him to a multiyear extension or trade him -- might be the biggest on-field personnel decision chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has this offseason. Whoever is advising Wilpon -- be it current GM Omar Minaya, assistant GM John Ricco or someone else -- much of his future will be tied to the advice they give to Wilpon on Reyes.
Reyes, for his part, doesn't want to go anywhere.
"I want to be here," Reyes said before he had to leave Thursday's 11-4 Mets loss to the Marlins with a reaggravated oblique. "This is the team that gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues. This is the only team that I've played in the big leagues with my entire career so far. I don't want to go anywhere. At the same time, like I've said before, this is a business."
Reyes is just 27. He admits he is having a subpar season, but considering he missed nearly all of last year (hamstring) and spring training (thyroid), he might deserve to be graded on a curve.
Even after eight seasons, it is hard to know exactly what Reyes is as a player. When he is healthy and sprinting around the bases, he is one of the best in baseball.
When he plays like he has this season, he looks like another average player on an average team -- and he knows it.
"I know I can be better," Reyes said. "There is no doubt in my mind I can be better. If you look throughout my career, when I play a full year, at this moment I have better numbers than I have now."
Reyes is hitting .287 with eight homers, 44 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and 73 runs scored. He has walked only 25 times, which really annoys him.
"The numbers should be better," Reyes said.
If Reyes weren't hurt, he would be projected to finish with 96 runs scored in 147 games, which is not terrible but is not close to the career-high 122 he scored in 2006.
Fangraphs.com's advanced metrics rates Reyes as having the fifth best offensive season of all shortstops this season. When you factor in defense, he is the 11th overall shortstop, according to the website. Shortstops in the site's formula who rate ahead of Reyes include the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter, Oakland A's Cliff Pennington and San Diego Padres' Jerry Hairston Jr.
Still, the Mets talk about what he could be, not what he really is.
"He is on his way to being one of those guys who you pay to see play," Mets manger Jerry Manuel said.
When Reyes is right, he is a no-doubt-about-it keeper, but often he is on the disabled list or simply banged up.
There have been reports that the Mets are going to pick up Reyes' option and might even talk extension, but this close to free agency, Reyes probably would be smarter to bet on himself. Wilpon likely would want to sign Reyes on a bargain deal.
That also is the problem in trading Reyes. Other teams don't know what they are getting and don't know whether he will sign with them. The days of Reyes being able to bring back top-flight, major league-ready talent might be over. But could the Mets smartly transform their future by dealing Reyes for top prospects?
This could be the time to read the National League East market and buy long. The Mets already have eliminated themselves from the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. They have a bloated payroll for next season, and it is more likely to be reduced than increased.
Meanwhile, the Phillies, Braves and Marlins figure to be strong again. Even the Nationals might be better.
This might be the moment for the Mets to make a crucial decision about where their club is and where it is headed. If they think Reyes can be the healthy, run-scoring monster he was from 2005 to 2008, it would be hard to let him go.
If they think he can play only 120 games of average shortstop, it is hard to justify $11 million.
At the least, if the Mets simply pick up Reyes' option, they will have a supremely motivated player next season. He could be a unique weapon again.
Whatever they decide, how the Mets utilize Reyes could determine a lot about this franchise's future. As Reyes goes, so might the Mets.