As part of a franchise altering move this summer, Jeff Bridich and the Rockies front office agreed to take on Jose Reyes and his awful contract as part of the blockbuster Troy Tulowitzki deal. That's given us just north of 200 plate appearances and 400 defensive innings to evaluate him on a more personal level.
At the time of the trade, I was extremely critical of the deal in its entirety, and especially critical of the Jose Reyes aspect it included. Here's a snippet of what I had to say on that subject in August:
The sad reality is that Jose Reyes, when combined with his contract is a toxic asset. So toxic in fact that it seems like much of the fan base has forgotten how these contracts work since we haven't had one this bad in a long, long time. There's a reason Reyes wasn't flipped at the July deadline and still hasn't been moved three weeks into August despite expectations of that happening: Nobody wants this contract!
Reyes is among the worst defensive shortstops in baseball (and getting worse) and is getting paid more to be a shell of his former self than Tulo is for each of the next two years. That's awful! While several teams in contention at the deadline including the Yankees, Angels, Twins, and Royals could have used his services at either second or short before the July 31st deadline, nobody wanted to pay that contract, let alone give something else up in return.
Rockies fans need to realize right now that they are not going to get anything of value moving this player. They will do well to eat half the contract and a get a Tinoco like lottery ticket in return. Reyes' contract is the bugaboo that makes this deal go from unpleasant to a potential fiasco.
Well, here we are two months later, and somehow I think I actually underestimated how dreadful Jose Reyes and his contract are for the Rockies in that piece. There's almost nothing to like about this player as a baseball asset, and it's painfully obvious the more you watch him. He swings at way too many pitches out of the zone, the little extra base pop he had earlier in his career is evaporating, he doesn't walk enough, the speed he once used to ignite offenses has been decimated by injuries and too many birthdays, his glove-work is atrocious, his range is akin to that of a garden gnome (the Rockies might be better off just building a statue of Troy Tulowitzki and putting it at shortstop during the defensive half of the inning), and perhaps worst of all, he's getting worse. A lot worse.
If we look at his numbers over last five seasons (2011-2015) when it comes to well, just about anything, it's hard not to conclude that Reyes' baseball ability is aging in dog years. Let's put it to the test:
On Base Percentage:
Other than a slight uptick from 2012 to 2013, this skill has been in a free-fall for Reyes.
Here we do see a drop every year for four straight years.
No surprise here since it's a combination of the first two metrics we looked at, but we see a clear dramatic downward trajectory in one of the most important offensive measuring sticks.
His strike out rate has always been low thanks to a high contact and high swing rate approach, but this too is headed in the wrong direction.
This skill has declined for three straight years, and that five percent number is the lowest Reyes has posted since 2005, which was his first full season in the majors.
O-Swing% (How often Reyes swings at pitches out of the strike zone):
For each of the past three seasons, Reyes has posted a career worst mark in this category, meaning he's getting fooled more and more often / not getting the ball in play early enough in counts and has to chase more with two strikes. (Another important note here is that this was a strength of Reyes before 2010. From 2003 through 2009, Reyes only posted a mark above 26% in this metric once. In other words, this skill has been in decline for even longer than some of the others list here.)
Contact Percentage (How often Reyes makes contact when he swings at any pitch):
You can probably see a theme developing here.
Extra base hit percentage (What percentage of Reyes at bats end in an extra base hit):
This drop reflects both a loss of power and a growing inability to turn singles into doubles with his speed. Oh, and speaking of a loss of power ...
Average Fly Ball distance:
2011: 269 feet
2012: 267 feet
2013: 260 feet
2014: 253 feet
2015: 236 feet
Not only has this number been in decline turning more and more of Reyes' fly balls into routine outs, but that average fly ball distance of 236 feet this year ranks DEAD LAST in baseball among qualified hitters. This puts Reyes just below guys like Ben Revere and Billy Hamilton when it comes to fly ball distance. Yikes!
Along these lines, it's probably a good time to mention Jose Reyes and popups. Remember how some people used to complain about Troy Tulowitzki's infield fly ball rate? Well the highest that figure ever got was 16.5 percent in 2010, and it was easy to dismiss a byproduct of a .949 OPS that at one point produced enough power to smash 14 home runs in 15 games. By comparison, Jose Reyes' infield fly ball rate this year is 21.5 percent, only this time is comes with a sub .700 OPS attached to it.
(One other note along these lines. Fangraphs measures "Hard Contact percentage" based on batted balls, and according to that metric, Reyes only made Hard Contact 19.3 percent of the time in 2015. Out of 141 qualified batters in MLB, that ranks 138th.)
All of this and and we haven't even gotten to his defense yet. It's not declining as fast as his offense, but that's only because it's already stunk for years. According to the Defensive Runs Saved metric, Reyes has been worth a -57 runs over the last five years (that's an average of just over -11 runs per season), and that ranks as the worst figure among qualified shortstops over that time. The other main defensive metric (Ultimate Zone Rating) is only slightly kinder, ranking him as the second worst defensive shortstop in MLB over the last five years besting only Asdrubal Cabrera.
Now it's time to remove all sharp objects from the room, because this is the moment I'm going to remind you that this player is going to make $22 million over each of the next two seasons, and has a $4 million buyout in 2018 some team will have to pay to avoid forking over an additional $22 million for that season. To sum it all up, Jose Reyes' game is in decline like the 1929 stock market, and the Rockies owe him another $48 million before this nightmare is over.
This is about as toxic as an asset can get folks. Jose Reyes will turn 33 next spring, and there's no reason to believe that any of these numbers will turn around. At best, they will stabilize and end the dramatic drop in production we've seen in recent years, but unfortunately for the Rockies, he's already lost the vast majority of what once made him valuable.
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Now over the weekend, Patrick Saunders posted an article that included a quote from Jeff Bridich on Reyes and his status with the team going forward:
"Based on how the trade happened and the finality of it, we are excited to have Jose, because he's an established veteran and there are a lot of things we like about his game. ... Moving forward we plan on him being here. Having depth at key positions is important, obviously."
I'm going to give Bridich the benefit of the doubt here and just assume he's lying while holding out hope that somebody stupid enough will come along to get him out of this mess, because there's literally zero reasons to be "excited" about having this player with this contract on the team. It's unfortunate enough that Reyes had to be the guy to take over after THE GUY at shortstop, but the trajectory of these numbers with that contract is like pouring gasoline on a fire.
Assuming the front office is being honest with itself and concludes that Reyes will play no role on the next competitive Rockies team, Bridich has two options, and neither of them are ideal.
1) He could attempt to trade him this winter and eat a massive portion of the remaining contract. The one thing Bridich has going for him here is that some teams are in desperate need of shortstop and second base help, and there's not going to be much of it on the market. (Sadly, I think think this is also one of the big reasons why moving DJ LeMahieu now makes sense for the Rockies. Strike while the market is hot.)
2) He could hold onto Reyes for the start of next season and hope his value increases some. On one level this seems like a sensible move as the Jose Reyes of old would be a great fit at Coors Field, but in reality, I think the Rockies are just going to be left with an old Jose Reyes. This is dangerous because if the numbers I posted above take yet another dive in 2016, he'll pretty much be untradable at that point. If this occurs, the Rockies are on the hook for all $48 million left on Reyes' contract.
In terms of how much the Rockies will have to eat if he's moved this winter, I'm actual Okay (at this point anyway) with swallowing pretty much all of the $22 million he's owed in 2016. As stated in other articles, I think a large portion of the Rockies 2016 payroll should be used to pay for guys who won't be on the team for either all or part of the year. With the Jorge De La Rosa and Carlos Gonzalez situations I think it will help sweeten the prospect haul, and with the Jose Reyes situation I would hope it allows the team to get out from under some of the 2017 contract. This is important because while I think the Rockies should operate in that "backwards" fashion for 2016, I'd really like for the books to be cleared so the team can start fresh and add pieces they might need in 2017 and beyond.
The frightening thing about the Jose Reyes situation however is that he's become such an abysmal baseball asset that I'm becoming skeptical of the Rockies ability to trade him at all in a manner that doesn't involve them swallowing the vast majority of the money remaining on that deal. If this occurs, it will cripple the payroll until 2018 and won't be off the books entirely until 2019.
Hopefully the front office has some magic up their sleeve that can make this player and his ugly contract disappear.