By: Jason Mumm
Jose Reyes signed with the Mets last week to headlines like Reyes Reunites with Mets or Jose Reyes Returns to Mets. What most of those stories were quick to point out is that he signed a minor league contract with the Mets and at the league minimum of $507,500. But don’t worry about Jose Reyes though because the Colorado Rockies have him covered for about $39 million for the next two years, the consequence of last year’s trade with the Toronto Blue Jays that brought Reyes and three pitching prospects to Denver in exchange for fan-favorite Troy Tulowitzki. In trading away Tulo, the Rockies sent his $20 million salary to Toronto and picked up a slightly larger one in Reyes’.
Time will tell if the trade was the panacea promised to Rockies fans clamoring for improved pitching. As of today, there isn’t much to cheer about. Miguel Castro, who had shown the most near-term promise of the three acquired prospects, was optioned to AAA-Albuquerque on Friday after posting a 6.14 ERA in 14.2 innings. Manager Walt Weiss said of the move, “there are some things Miguel needs to work on and he’ll do that.” Jeff Hoffman was the prize prospect of the three and is currently rated as the Rockies’ 4th-best prospect overall and their No. 1 pitching prospect. He isn’t projected to debut in the majors until 2017. The third prospect, Jesus Tinoco, is the Rockies’ 15th rated prospect projected for a 2018 debut.
What we know today, however, is that there was one player in that trade who was supposed to produce for the Rockies right away, and that was Jose Reyes. When the Rockies pulled the trigger on this deal, they owed Tulo $20m per year through 2019. Reyes was owed $22m per year through 2017. It seemed clear at the time that the two-year remainder would be plenty of time for the Rockies to bring up at least one of their shortstop prodigies and then Reyes would be sent away having helped the team bridge the gap.
But let’s look at it more critically. Reyes had been declining for years by the time this trade was completed. He was playing out a plus contract based on his all-star caliber days as a young player in New York rather than his actual performance at the time. His slash was .285/.322/.385 and his defense had gone from a plus to a minus– but somehow Rockies GM Jeff Briddich figured it was worth paying $2m more per year for him than he was currently paying one of the best players in the league at his position. Here is what SB Nation said at the time of the deal:
“The Rockies and Reyes, though? Reyes isn’t owed anywhere near as much total money, but he’s also older and significantly worse now that he’s no longer a good defender at short. He’s still owed a minimum of $48 million between 2016 and 2017. Maybe Reyes will be flipped to another team before the deadline, but even then, this is a strange acquisition. That’s because the Rockies didn’t get a whole lot else for their greatest trade asset, one teams have wanted to pry from them for years. Basically, we’re left waiting to see what they get by flipping Reyes — if anything — and what they do with the money they cleared by dealing Tulo’s future away.”
One year after the trade that sent the franchise’s best player away, Reyes has indeed been flipped, as in waived. The Rockies have found themselves once again hamstrung by a terrible contract that they chose to sign for a player who clearly wasn’t worth it. The Rockies will be paying Reyes $20-some million per year to watch him play for a minor league Mets team because what the rest of baseball knows about Reyes is that he’s only worth a league minimum contract. Meanwhile that cash could have come in handy to help improve a club that can never seem to get it right.
Most GMs would be fired for making a deal this bad. If one of those three pitching prospects the Rockies acquired in the deal do not pan out into a solid member of the rotation within a year or two, fans will be right to call the Tulo deal the worst trade in the history of this franchise.