PITTSBURGH -- The New York Mets traded Tom Seaver before he could leave on his own. They never really tried to retain Darryl Strawberry.
So if Jose Reyes ends up playing elsewhere in 2012, even highly knowledgeable Mets observers believe he may be the first superstar to walk away from the organization because the money simply is greener, or piled higher, elsewhere.
After his latest three-hit performance Sunday, which lifted his average to a major league-best .346, Reyes was asked if he was making it impossible for the Mets to allow him to leave.
"I don't have that decision, man," Reyes said, disarming the question with a smile. "I tell you guys over and over, I don't have that decision. I'm going to continue to play, to do my job, to help this team the most that I can. And it happens, whatever happens in the future."
Even before Reyes capped the scoring in a 7-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a ninth-inning solo homer, the shortstop had produced his MLB-leading 33rd multihit game. He has played in 62 games. So if Reyes maintains this pace, he will become the first major leaguer since the St. Louis Cardinals' Joe Medwick in 1937 to have multihit games in more than half of his games played in a season (minimum 100 games), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Ichiro Suzuki has come closest since Medwick, having multihit games in exactly half -- 73 of 146 -- his games in 2009.
"As a matter of fact, we blamed him for the slow start today, because he didn't get on the first at-bat," manager Terry Collins joked after the Mets again inched to within a game of .500.
Said Reyes: "It's good to play with no pain, with no injuries. I feel like I'm able to do everything on the field. That's a good feeling, because the last two years I didn't feel that way."
And that, by now you're aware, is the rub. Sure, Reyes is producing now. But if he gets Carl Crawford money -- when he gets Carl Crawford money -- how will he perform in Year 6 and 7 of the contract, given he is dependent on his legs? And who's to say the injuries that tormented his career won't resurface after the ink has dried?
Reyes celebrated the eight-year anniversary of his major league debut on Friday, then his 28th birthday on Saturday, which means he should be in his mid-30s at the end of his next contract. You see what Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana are at the back end of their current deals relative to their salaries now and you wonder what kind of predicament general manager Sandy Alderson's successor will be confronting in 2017 and 2018 should Alderson sign Reyes to a deal of that length.
Then again, you wonder more how the Mets could consider letting such a dynamic player walk. A dynamic player -- dare we say a superstar -- who wants to stay.
At the very least, it now appears highly likely the Mets will keep Reyes at the trading deadline, take their chances trying to re-sign him as a free agent next offseason, then take the draft picks if he ends up elsewhere.
Reyes' homer Sunday was his second of the series, both off Daniel McCutchen, and third of the season.
"To be honest with you guys, I don't worry about home runs," Reyes said. "I just worry about getting on base, hitting a lot of triples. I'll take a triple anytime. Home runs, once in a while they come. When they come, I enjoy it, because I don't hit too many."
Said Collins: "It's another dimension I didn't know he had. I know he's hit homers in the past. When he hits them in batting practice, he hits them a long way."
In a lighter moment after Sunday's victory, Reyes was asked if he ever met Crawford, whose seven-year, $142 million contract Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon said Reyes will never duplicate, in part because of his injury history.
Reyes recalled playing in the 2002 Futures Game on opposite teams from Crawford before both were major leaguers. Their only other interaction, by Reyes' recollection, was when the Mets finished spring training at Tropicana Field a couple of years ago against Crawford's then-employer, the Tampa Bay Rays.
"I think we said hello," Reyes said. "That's it."