Looking Past the Jose Reyes Era
Featured picture credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
As Jose Reyes left the game today with an injury after being struck by a baseball, it got me wondering; is Jose Reyes the long term answer at shortstop?
In April 2013, Jose Reyes’ electric speed and leadoff-quality bat won over the hearts of Jays fans everywhere. Despite his steep price tag, Reyes was one of the best shortstops in the entire league, and his vibrant personality help add many fans to his growing number of supporters. However, ever since the injury that caused him to miss 69 games in 2013, Reyes has not been the same; his wRC+ dipped from 113 to 102 last year, and has dropped to 94 this year. As of now, Reyes is no longer the 4 WAR superstar of his old days; he projects to finish the year with a clean 2 WAR. While 2 WAR from your shortstop is nothing to scoff at, coming at his $17m price tag for this season and the next 2 afterwards, many fans have begun to lose patience with Reyes. But who can we target to replace him, in the event Jose Reyes parts ways with the Blue Jays?
I will evaluate assets in the same way Spencer did in his article about starting pitching targets. Arbitration salaries are calculated in the traditional 20/40/60 method. xSeries figures can be found here, as we work to have it featured more prominently on the site.
Our first option isn’t even a shortstop! It seems like with any conversation about undervalued players in the MLB, Ben Zobrist always manages to come up, so it’s a wonder as to how he still doesn’t get a ton of coverage as a fantastic player. Unfortunately, in his age 34 season, his superstar days are likely over; however, that does not mean he can’t still be an incredibly productive player. Zobrist is a rental until the end of the season, projected for 1.4 additional WAR, potentially a tick more (likely between 0 and 0.5 more) when you adjust for an increase in playing time at shortstop. Zobrist could also play left field for the Jays. His value likely lies at between $14 million and $20 million, meaning a package of Max Pentecost and Matt Boyd could work for the Athletics. Zobrist has posted an xLine of .252/.335/.385, good for a 104 xwRC+. Coming from many different positions that’s a valuable asset.
Brad Miller came up with the Mariners as a shortstop, but has seen some action in the outfield for the Mariners, similar to Zobrist. The organization appears to like Chris Taylor, and his projections say that he should be at least a decent shortstop going forward, so there’s a chance that Miller could be available, purely speculatively. Miller is a controllable asset, and we can break his value down as such:
Miller’s value doesn’t come from any one particular area of dominance; rather, he is an all-around balanced player who isn’t flashy but provides lots of value. He has solid speed with 10 steals, a league average bat at time of writing with a 100 wRC+, and neutral defense; all of these things in a young short stop combine to form a very valuable asset. For Miller, a major league asset might be preferable in return, so the Jays could be looking at a piece like Roberto Osuna going back to Seattle. This could be the right time to buy in on Miller, as his xLine is very good for a shortstop; .261/.324/.432, good for a 113 xwRC+.
Our third main option is a favorite of our xSeries. Having posted wRC+ marks of 110 and 104 in the past two seasons, Kiké has a very usable bat at shortstop. At just 23, he is extremely young, and has posted good defensive value this far; however, that is a very small sample, much of which is likely noise. Stuck in an extremely crowded infield of Alex Guerrero, Alberto Callaspo, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, and soon to be Hector Olivera and Corey Seager, there’s no reason that Kiké should’t be available. We can break down his value as such.
Kiké, while a slightly less attractive asset than Miller, provides good value at shortstop for several years to come. As well, it is unlikely that Los Angeles would ask for full market value for Kike; Los Angeles could potentially be interested in a young pitcher like Matt Boyd or Miguel Castro, or… well, the Dodgers don’t really need help anywhere and can buy whatever they need, but you get the picture. The xSeries says Kike’s batted ball and plate discipline peripherals portray a .286/.335/.482 hitter (128 xwRC+).
In conclusion, if the Blue Jays are to move on from Jose Reyes, they might be best served taking a different approach to the shortstop position next; rather than a flashy, expensive player, a cheap, underrated player to fill the position might just be the way to go. As we have already established, as well, Ryan Goins is not the answer either.