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Phillies Are Stealth Favorites For Jose Reyes

Andy Martino of the Daily News had a great line on Twitter when he called Jose Reyes “the dead Elvis of this offseason.” Thus far, we have yet to fully grasp what the market for Reyes really is. The call me Miami not Florida Marlins wined and dined him a couple of weeks ago, which prompted many to say his arrival in South Beach was inevitable. Considering they have been linked to Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Roy Oswalt, and Ryan Madson, it takes on more the look of a PR stunt to sell tickets in a new ballpark than serious free agent bidding. That’s why I don’t take reports of his presence in Miami as anything of importance.

Outside of Miami, it’s been very quiet on the Reyes front. Teams such as Detroit and Milwaukee have been lukewarm, at least publically, on making a bid. San Francisco bowed out before it started, while logical destinations such as Boston and Anaheim haven’t been in the mix. That brings me to the team that might actually be the real favorite- the Phillies.

According to reports, Reyes was in Philadelphia yesterday, but not to meet with Ruben Amaro, rather he was, according to a Philly gossip columnist ,” visiting his daughter and baby mama.” Other reporters chimed in with their own skepticism regarding how the Phillies could afford Reyes and his $100 million dollar demands. I am here to tell you that not only do I believe they can, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phillies are quietly moving themselves ahead of the pack as the frontrunners.

Let’s look at this logically. Jimmy Rollins wants a 5-year deal that’s probably in the neighborhood of $50 million dollars. He will be 33 this coming season and I find it hard to believe Ruben Amaro is going to invest in a player at that age that is already breaking down. If signing Reyes to a long-term deal into his late prime is risky, signing Rollins into his late thirties is insane.

Next, think about the window of opportunity. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are making a combined $45 million per year over the next few seasons. When you have that kind of 1-2 punch in your rotation there aren’t many short series you should lose. The Cardinals proved to be a team of destiny, but if they replayed the NLDS 10 times, I bet the Phillies win 9 of them. Unfortunately, the one Cardinal win came when it counted. Long known for their offense, the Phils had trouble scoring last season. With Ryan Howard out for 2012, they are going to need to reconstruct their offense to more speed and run creation. Reyes can paint a new face on the Phils who have won the last few years mainly due to a power laden lineup that featured Howard, Utley, Werth, and Ibanez.

You can’t waste whatever baseball is left in those aces arms. The signing of Jonathan Papelbon to a 4-year $50 million dollar deal shows how serious the Phillies are about leveraging this window of opportunity. They aren’t the Yankees with an infinite payroll, but they have proven over the last couple of off-season’s they will find a way to fit a player they need into their budget.

Finally, this is a move that would stick it to the city they hate. The Mets-Phils rivalry has fizzled due to New York’s poor performance on the field. Regardless, you know there isn’t any love lost by the team and fans. Philadelphia will always have an inferiority complex to New York. Taking away one of their stars would make winning that much sweeter. The Phils clubhouse was never a fan of Reyes celebratory antics, but it always seemed that was led by Rollins. With his imminent departure that becomes a moot point.

Of course, you are probably asking yourself the ultimate question of affordability. According to Phillies Nation, Ruben Amaro has about $161 million committed to the 2012 payroll, including buyouts. The luxury tax threshold is going to be $178 million in 2012. They may have to backload Reyes’ contract a bit, but they should be able to fit him in and still sign players to round out the roster. Remember, the Phillies Q-Rating is at an all-time high. Visit the South Jersey/Philly area and all you see is Phillies merchandise wherever you go. The nightly sellouts have made them flush with cash, but they also have a wealthy minority owner by the name of John Middleton. Middleton sold his tobacco company for $2.9 billion in 2007. No surprise the Phillies spending has increased significantly since then. Phillies CEO David Montgomery denied that Middleton’s personal wealth benefits the team, but it seems to be too coincidental the Phillies spending has gone wild since that event.  Ironically, he is the type of cash cow minority owner the Wilpons have been looking for.

Ruben Amaro is waiting in the weeds. He did this with Cliff Lee last offseason. It was the Yankees, Texas, and Anaheim, then all of a sudden you looked up and Lee was a member of the Phillies. Amaro’s front office doesn’t seem to leak much information when it comes to big ticket free agents. Not only do I believe Jose Reyes  is on their radar, but I bet the Phils are the favorites to land him. Amaro and company are actually trying to win a championship, not BS their fan base ala Jeffrey Loria and David Samson down in Miami. There is too much smoke surrounding this situation for there not to be fire. Add in the recent pattern of history and its evidence enough for me to see Jose Reyes announced as the new Phillies shortstop before Christmas.

***

Everyone believes that Ruben Tejada is the logical replacement for Jose Reyes at shortstop. In all likelihood that will be the case, but if Sandy Alderson does want to see what other options he has there are upgrades over veteran Jack Wilson. Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima has been posted by his NPB team, the Seibu Lions. During his NPB career, Nakajima typically hits about 20 HRs, steals about 15 bases, and strikes out about 100 times.

Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker believes that “ Nakajima is not an MLB shortstop, but if he can come close his current .770 OPS at the MLB level, he’d be a useful second baseman.” If you remember, the Twins got burnt on their NPB shortstop import, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Minnesota thought they were getting a gold glove shortstop that had some pop, but he must have left his offense in the Pacific Rim as he hit .226 with no HRs in 68 games during the first year of a 3-year/$9.5 million dollar deal. Nakajima sounds like a pretty good comparison.

The bidding ends tomorrow, but I don’t expect the Mets to be involved. Nakajima sounds an awful lot like Kaz Matsui, and the Mets don’t have the luxury of wasting any capital. I am all for bidding on Japanese talent, but Nakajima doesn’t appear to profile as the kind of risk Alderson can afford to take. That’s why there have been more rumors connecting the Mets to Wilson than Nakajima.

By Mike Silva
Friday, 2 Dec 2011

 

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Tagged:
Hiroyuki Nakajima, Ruben Amaro, Tsuyoshi Nishioka
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