Something interesting came out regarding the Marlins' and their bid to acquire free agent shortstop Jose Reyes. This tidbit came from the New York Daily News (H/T Steve Slowinski of SB Tampa Bay).
Yet Mets people on Tuesday privately downplayed the significance of the Marlins’ aggressiveness. One person said he heard they plan to offer Reyes only a three-year deal at a high annual average, presumably more than $20 million a year.
Another Mets person joked that, "Calling him at 12:01 only gets you to 12:02. The more important message is the offer."
Now, those snarky Mets officials are right: just because the Marlins supposedly prioritized Jose Reyes, it does not mean that he will sign with the team. The offer the Marlins eventually throw his way is going to have to impress him in order for him to sign. And by the sound of their tone, it does not sound like they think a three-year offer to Reyes would be impressive, even for the sort of annual average value that the team supposedly is considering.
But think for a second what an offer like that means for both sides. As Slowinski mentions in the linked hat tip article, the idea is not actually all that bad for both the team and the player.Slowinski explain why both sides could favor an expensive three-year deal over a cheaper, long-term contract.
This is a savvy move by the Marlins. If Reyes accepts the deal, it gives them a star player but doesn't commit them to him over a long period of time, minimizing the risk involved in signing the injury-prone Reyes. It's also a more attractive offer than it seems at first glance, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if Reyes jumps at the chance to make huge money both now and in three years.
Why is it a more attractive offer to Reyes initially? Because he would make more money now than he would have under a long-term deal and he would be re-entering the free agent market at age 32. Of course, this would only involve him betting on himself to stay on pace over the next three seasons. If he does, he would be in line to make more money than he would have on a long-term deal due to natural inflation.
While this example does not match the exact precedence, the situation of Adrian Beltre fits to a degree. Beltre did sign a five-year deal when he hit free agency, but he was locked up at age 26. After those five years passed, he re-entered the market at age 31 and established enough value to receive another lucrative five-year contract at age 32. In Reyes's case, he would re-enter the market at age 32 if he accepted a lucrative three-year deal. If he bets on himself maintaining a 4.5-win pace over the next three seasons, he could re-enter and earn a five-year deal an equally or more lucrative five-year contract then.
For the Marlins, the move is obviously a good one, as they eschew the risk of a long-term, big-money deal while gaining the short term benefits of having an in-his-prime Reyes. Perhaps the greater point is that it also minimizes the commitment the team would make to their entire current core roster. It should be noted that a three-year deal for Reyes would run through 2014. Ramirez's current contract also takes him through 2014. John Buck, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Nolasco are signed through 2013. Much of the long-term commitments the Marlins have made end at around this time. If the team fails to compete, the Marlins have a simple exit strategy for rebuilding presumably around Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison. They will have a substantial amount of money coming off the books in those seasons and can use them accordingly during those free agent years.
The only way a deal like this can fail in the long term is, ironically enough, if the Marlins succeed. If Ramirez and Reyes tear it up and the Fish are competitive for the next three years, the Marlins will have to contend with how to retain these players from a successful core. However, no Marlins fan will be whining if the team is so successful during this three-year period, especially if success includes playoff berths and even World Series runs. So the one way in which this sort of risk would have long-term complications for the organization is if the team succeeds enough to camouflage the negative effects behind wins.
Now, it's a difficult sell to Reyes, who would be gambling future security for the chance at a better payday. But if it succeeds, he will earn more money and the Marlins will have safety valves installed to minimize their risk. It is actually a bold proposition, and one that could be a huge boon for the Fish if accomplished.
What do you Fish Stripers think? Would Reyes agree to a deal like this? Would he be willing to bet on his performance with future security on the line?