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Numbers Game: Marlins Ink Reyes

Scott Cullen
12/4/2011 11:12:12 PM
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The Miami Marlins made a blockbuster free agent signing, inking star shortstop Jose Reyes.

Numbers Game breaks down the deal.

The Marlins Get: SS Jose Reyes.

Reyes, 28, is one of the elite shortstop talents in the game. He has game-breaking speed and led the National League with 16 triples and a .337 batting average last season, while compiling a career-high .385 on-base percentage and .877 OPS.

While Reyes' numbers were inflated by a career-high .353 batting average on balls in play, that's not outrageously high for someone with Reyes' speed and his career BABIP is .321.

Digging into www.fangraphs.com, where the development seems to have taken place is in Reyes' contact rates, which were at a career-high level (90.2%) in 2011, while he had a career-low percentage of swinging strikes (4.1%) and those numbers came despite swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone (32.3%) than in any previous season. 

Though 2011 amounted to a bounceback season for Reyes, it's noteworthy that 2010 (.749 OPS, 2.9 WAR, per www.fangraphs.com) was a relatively mediocre season and he played just 36 games in 2009 due to a lingering calf injury. While Reyes can still run -- he's stolen 69 bases in 86 attempts over the last two season -- he's not as dynamic on the basepaths as he was from 2005 through 2007, when he swiped 202 bases, an average of 67.33 per season.

Even if he's not quite as speedy, or healthy (he's been hampered by hamstring issues too), as he'd been earlier in his career, Reyes does add a presence to the top of the Marlins' lineup. He'll be an upgrade on Hanley Ramirez at short for Florida, which should allow the Marlins to shift Ramirez to third base. Assuming his 2011 season was an aberration, Ramirez has the power to profile suitably as a corner infielder.

According to ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com, Reyes is signed for six years and $106-million, with a club option for $22-million in a seventh season (with $5-million due for declining that option).

With Reyes' game predicated on speed, it will be fascinating to see how far into this thirties that he can remain an offensive force. It's not inconceivable that Reyes could remain a valuable player through the life of the contract, but if leg injuries catch up to him and he's no longer a speed merchant, or can't stay healthy, the last couple years could turn out to be very expensive relative to production.

It's that risk that might suggest the Marlins are overpaying for Reyes yet, especially since the Marlins have been notoriously frugal in recent years, the most common way to lure marquee free agents is to back up the Brinks truck and throw money at them.

It's a bold move by Miami, as they move into their new ballpark, and with Reyes ranking as one of the best at his position, it seems worthwhile to go an extra year on the contract to get the deal done.

Reyes' departure leaves the Mets with a gaping hole, both at the top of their lineup and at shortstop. Jimmy Rollins is the best remaining free agent shortstop on the market, with Rafael Furcal another possible free agent alternative. Neither is as productive as Reyes, yet neither will require the same kind of financial commitment -- such is the nature of the free market system.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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