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Ferguson: Reyes' slow start cause for concern for Jays

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Scott Ferguson
5/5/2014 12:21:02 PM
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Who knows if Alex Rodriguez will ever play for the Yankees again or any other team in the Majors for that matter. What we do know is the Yankees still owe him $61 million from 2015 through 2017.

I only mention this because the Blue Jays are in a similar dilemma with Jose Reyes. But not because he's an aging veteran who's under suspension, which of course, he's not.

Jose Reyes is a model citizen with the Blue Jays, always upbeat and smiling. But he should still be in the prime of his career at age 30 (turning 31). Yet right now he is struggling. Hitting out of the lead-off spot, Reyes is batting only .188 with one homer and one stolen base. A hamstring injury knocked him out of action late in spring training and has cost him 16 of the 31 games the Jays have played. This coming off a 2013 season where he missed 69 games after suffering that serious ankle injury sliding into second base at Kansas City.

Reyes put up respectable numbers when he returned, hitting .296 with 10 homers, 37 runs batted in and 15 stolen bases. But those are not the numbers of a star, which he is reputed to be and is paid to be. Reyes is making $16 million this season. After that his contract balloons to $22 million for each of the following three years, and then there is a club option for one more year at $22 million which has a $4 million buyout. Even if the Blue Jays take the buyout, they are on the hook for $86 million for the next four-plus years including this year. If the whole deal plays out the number is $104 million. In simple terms this commitment dwarfs what the Yankees owe to A-Rod and the Blue Jays aren't the Yankees.

It's way too early to assume Jose Reyes will never come close to being the player he once was. But remember his best four seasons came between the ages of 22 and 25 with the Mets. In the five years since, he's been plagued by leg injuries and has had just two decent seasons.

In spring training, there was media-fuelled talk in New York that either the Yankees or the Mets should attempt to acquire Reyes. At the moment there doesn't seem to be the urgency for either team to go down that path. The Mets and Yankees have identical 16-14 records. The Yanks' is good enough to have them in first place in the AL East, while the Mets are a close third in the NL East, a half-game back of Washington and one game behind division-leading Atlanta.

The Yanks are still giving the bulk of their playing time at short to the soon-to-be-40 Derek Jeter, who is in the final year of his Hall of Fame career. The Mets are using the far less trumpeted combination of Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla. Both teams would seem to have more pressing needs than a shortstop right now.

The Yankees' two most veteran arms, C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, are struggling and the Mets could use another power hitting outfielder. But even if they were in dire need of a shortstop, they would hardly be knocking down the Jays' door now to get Reyes. It's sort of the like the chicken-egg thing right now. If Reyes was hitting and stealing bases, other teams might want him. But if that was the case, and he was helping the Jays stay in a division race, why would they even think of moving him? This could be the Jays' most interesting storyline between now and the end of the season.

The Blue Jays, who are 1-2 so far in interleague play, continue against the National League with a pair of two-game series against the Phillies starting Monday night at Citizen's Bank Ballpark in Philly, and then moving to Rogers Centre for two starting Wednesday night. The two franchises will always be linked by that incredible 1993 World Series that was capped off by Joe Carter's walk-off homer off Mitch Williams that gave the Jays their second straight Fall Classic victory.

But it's been quite the rollercoaster journey the Phils have been on since then. They have had nine losing seasons including seven in a row at one point. They earned one .500 season and 10 winning seasons - including nine in a row. They beat Tampa Bay in the 2008 World Series and then lost in 2009 to the Yankees, both with Charlie Manuel at the helm. Over that span they also set a single season franchise record with 102 victories in a season. Yet this same franchise in 2007 became the first in pro sports history to lose 10,000 games over its existence.

Over this four-game set the Jays figure to see the Phils top three starters, in Cole Hamels (if he's over the flu), Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett. Phils shortstop Jimmy Rollins only needs 31 more hits to break Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt's all-time franchise mark of 2,234.


Famous Firsts

Part of the joy and intrigue of going to a ballgame is knowing you just might see something that has never happened before. Take Saturday at Cleveland, where Canadian-born journeyman catcher George Kottaras was called up by the Indians to fill in for former Jays catcher Yan Gomes who was gone on paternity leave. All Kottaras did was become the first player to homer in his first two at-bats with Cleveland.

Then you have Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon. On Saturday at Miami he went 5-for-6 in an 11-inning marathon 9-7 Dodgers victory. He also drove in two runs and stole three bases giving him a National League-leading 19 stolen bases. Gordon also became the first player in Dodgers history with five hits and three stolen bases in one game.

Finally, you have the New York Mets pitchers. They set an all-time record from the start of a season by not recording a single hit in a streak which they continued through Sunday. Do you think Mets fans are in favour of the DH?

Jose Reyes (Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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