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Monday, December 5, 2011

Marlins find money under couch cushions, add Jose Reyes

ESPN reported today that Jose Reyes agreed to a six year $102 million contract. I blogged earlier that the Marlins had money to spend but still actually seeing them use it is a bit of a shock. In 2011 Reyes led the league in batting average and triples and even scored 101 runs despite playing in only 126 games.  It was perhaps the finest all around season of his nine year career which is a good thing for a player in their prime years but perhaps a sign of caution for any team looking to sign him to a long-term deal.

Chronic hamstring issues have limited Reyes' durability and have hindered his speed which just happens to be his best asset.  From 2005-08 Reyes averaged 158 games played and 64 stolen bases.  In the last three season's he's spent significant time on the disabled list while seeing his stolen base attempts drop from one every other game (Reyes attempted 326 steals in 633 games played from 2005-08) to roughly one every three games (99 attempts in 295 games).  Though stolen bases may be overrated, Reyes is more valuable the more he runs thanks to a 80% career success rate.  The decrease in attempts may also mean he's not quite as good an all around base runner as he used to be.  This last part is purely skeptical since I do not have any data to back this up.

The hamstring problems have also resulted in a decrease in range for Reyes.  Never a great defensive player, Reyes could hold is own when he first came up.  Over the last three seasons - incidentally the same three seasons he's had recurring hamstring issues - Reyes has graded out as a poor defender according to's defensive metrics. Now that he's in Miami he'll be an improvement over Hanley Ramirez so maybe the Marlins are content enough the upgrade.

Fortunately his game is not entirely based on his electrifying speed.  Reyes boasts a decent walk rate (6.9% of his plate appearances ended with a walk) and has moderate power from the right side (60 of his 81 career homers have come batting right-handed).  His slugging percentage still receives a boost from his speed, though.  Reyes has led the league in triples four times and that speed also enables him to stretch many singles into doubles. As he ages we can likely expect his speed to diminish but if he's able to avoid any more major leg injuries he'll still be one fast dude at the end of the contract.

Putting Reyes at the top of the Marlins lineup makes the team significantly better. If they can hang on to Hanley Ramirez a trio of Hanley, Reyes, and Mike Stanton will put runs on the board.  One more starting pitcher (Buehrle?) and this team can think about playoffs.

Reyes is clearly a great player but the issue with this signing is not talent, it's health.  And it's his health that will determine if this signing is a mistake or a stroke of genius.  Now, can they convince Hanley to stay?
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