Sources confirmed Mets free agent shortstop Jose Reyes , their top target this offseason, agreed to a six-year, $106 million contract, pending a physical. The deal is the richest in franchise history, eclipsing Hanley Ramirez 's six-year, $70 million extension.
On the eve of the Winter Meetings, multiple reports surfaced that the Mets were out of the Reyes bidding upon learning the Marlins had increased the offer. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson later told New York reporters that if the rumored numbers were accurate, they would not be able to match.
One of the top three available free agents on the market, Reyes is the reigning National League batting champion and is widely regarded among the game's most exciting players. In Reyes, a four-time All-Star, the Marlins arguably have the best leadoff hitter of his generation to table-set for Ramirez and budding superstar slugger Mike Stanton .
Along with a .292 career average and .341 on-base percentage, Reyes can boast 370 stolen bases since making his major league debut with the Mets on June 10, 2003. Reyes, 28, earned a Silver Slugger in 2006 and from 2005-'07 paced the National League in steals every season.
"More than anything, it will be exciting," first baseman Gaby Sanchez said. "You have two of the best players in baseball playing on the same team and they would be destructive on the base paths also. In my opinion probably Reyes hitting first and he would be stealing and Hanley would be stealing and [ Emilio Bonifacio ] stealing. All of a sudden you've got stuff going around base paths the entire time. It will be an exciting thing to see."
The Reyes addition means Ramirez will join Cal Ripken and Alex Rodriguez in the All Star shortstop turned third baseman club. Ramirez this offseason has fallen well short of saying he'd welcome a position change to accommodate friend and fellow Dominican countryman Reyes.
Marlins front office members at every opportunity have professed Ramirez has winning and the team's best interests at heart, and they don't anticipate an issue.
During the general managers' meetings in Milwaukee, Fox Sports caught up with new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen , who echoed his bosses' sentiments.
"We let him know about it," Guillen said. "So far, he sounds good. You're not going to move your biggest piece to show how tough you are. We've got to talk to him, make him understand why the team will be better.
"I don't think it will be a problem. I've talked to him a lot. This kid is going to be pretty special, you watch. You've got to show him some love. You've got to be straight-up with him, honest with him, let him know he's a Marlin."
Ramirez no doubt will have some growing pains. He'll get a late start acclimating to the position. Shoulder surgery ended Ramirez's season in September, and he's not expected to begin baseball activity until after the first of the year.
Bonifacio, who has seen extensive time at both short and third, believes Ramirez will make a smooth transition.
"Third is more of a reaction position," Bonifacio said. "He's played short and has good movement, so I don't think it would be anything difficult for him. Shortstop is movement and reaction also. At third you don't have to move as much, so you're just reacting. It would be hard to go from third to short."
Reyes and Ramirez form the most expensive left side in baseball this side of Rodriguez and Derek Jeter with the Yankees . In 2012, Ramirez will earn $15 million of the $46.5 million remaining on the previous club record six-year, $70 million extension he signed.
The Marlins, who last week signed Heath Bell to a three-year, $27 million deal that has not been formally announced, remain in the market for starting pitching. The new revenue streams that will flow from their Little Havana ballpark have enabled them to make contract offers to coveted free agents Albert Pujols and Mark Buehrle .
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