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The Rockies did not trade Jose Reyes to the Yankees, but they probably should have

It sounds like the Colorado Rockies had a suitor for Jose Reyes last summer in the New York Yankees. Knowing what we know now, how should we feel that a deal never came close to going through?

How should we feel that Jose Reyes is still with the Rockies?
How should we feel that Jose Reyes is still with the Rockies?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

By now, you've likely read Ken Rosenthal's piece taking the Colorado Rockies to task for their confusing array of offseason moves. Buried in there is an important tidbit about the club having an opportunity to deal Jose Reyes to the New York Yankees, only to see talks quickly break down.

That discussion presumably occurred at the trade deadline—or, at the very least, before Reyes' alleged domestic violence incident in Hawaii last October. The Rockies bear no fault there, of course. From the club's perspective, unfortunate timing puts their future plans with Reyes in jeopardy; from the only perspective that matters, it's an all-too-familiar situation in pro sports that Major League Baseball must get right, but regardless, that is not something to place at the foot of the organization.

This Rockies-Yankees trade report from Rosenthal, though, might be a valid point for criticism. To be clear, we don't know a whole lot about this supposed trade; we're in the dark about specifics like players involved, how much money the Rockies could have eaten to move Reyes, and even exactly how far talks progressed.

All we really know are these two paragraphs:

The Rox could not have known that Reyes would be charged with domestic abuse. They should have known that he no longer could play shortstop. And they had at least one club interested in him -- the Yankees.

The teams talked about different ways to make a Reyes trade work, according to major-league sources. The Yankees, who wanted Reyes to play second base, would have required the Rockies to pay a significant portion of his remaining salary. But the two sides never got close to a deal, sources said.

It's all speculation and analysis from here on, to be clear, but a few variables could have stalled talks early:

The talks broke down over money

Reyes is owed $44 million for two more years of baseball, and then $4 million on a buyout ahead of 2018. That's a lot of money, even for the New York Yankees. It's also a lot of money for a player who's a shell of his former self, and has been that way relative to his salary for a few seasons — especially, as Rosenthal notes, as a shortstop.

Did the Rockies balk at paying any money whatsoever? Did the Yankees want Colorado to pay 80% of Reyes' remaining salary to get a deal done? Those are probably pretty radical extremes on the spectrum, but whatever magic money number in between would have moved the deal along, there's a chance the clubs never got to it, and money was a significant halting point.

The talks broke down over players

An earlier report from CBS' Jon Heyman indicated the Rockies wanted top-level prospects for Reyes.  Heyman's report could have been about the Yankees; he doesn't name the other team involved with the Rockies. If that's it, shame on Colorado for expecting a top prospect relative to Reyes' age, ability, and contract. To get out from under Reyes' contract, the Rockies ought to have been willing to take much less than that.

Of course, it's also possible the Rockies were willing to take much less than a top prospect back from New York, and even with realistic expectations of something less, came away unimpressed with the Yankees' offer. Remember, these trade talks probably occurred before Reyes' October incident; at that point in time, if general manager Jeff Bridich felt the Yankees offer was subpar, why not take the chance on a different deal materializing over the winter? If something better comes back for Reyes, great! If it doesn't, hey, move him for a random minor leaguer.

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From early on, it was apparent Reyes was an albatross on the Rockies' roster, on a career path diametrically opposed to the team's plan to take young pitching and top prospects into a future window of contention. Even without an arrest, then, it should have been incumbent upon Bridich to move Reyes quickly, if only to get out from under at least some of the contract and return some sort of talent.

Maybe the Yankees' offer of players was junk. Maybe New York asked the Rockies to pay way too much of Reyes' salary, or Colorado had unrealistic expectations one way or another. But apart form a really bad offer—again, we don't know—the Rockies really should have moved Reyes elsewhere the first chance they had after making the initial trade with Toronto.

Put this way: the Rockies never traded for Jose Reyes; he was a necessary add-on to a deal that brought three strong, young pitchers to Colorado. Knowing that, why not move him elsewhere at the first legitimate opportunity? At his age and with his contract, his value wasn't going to suddenly skyrocket over the winter. Why not ship him to New York? A Jeff Hoffman-type prospect wouldn't have returned, but couldn't the Rockies have gotten a Jesus Tinoco-level talent back? Wouldn't that have been significantly better than $48 million sunk into a declining player on a team that needs to get young?

Hindsight is 20/20, and of course there's no way for Jeff Bridich to have known Jose Reyes would get arrested a month after the season ended. Among other things, that has tanked Reyes' trade value going forward, and the Rockies are in a tough spot with him. That's not Bridich's fault. But months before that, if there was legitimate trade interest for a player that even then posed no short- or long-term value to the Rockies, and they didn't pursue it for a tangible return, that's unfortunate.