NEW YORK -- On the morning of his 34th birthday, Jose Reyes was batting .184/.257/.294. He had not homered in a month and a half, making a future on the waiver wire seem far more likely than a future on the Mets.
In the nearly three months since that day, Reyes has been one of baseball's most productive shortstops, batting .286/.332/.498 with nine home runs and 11 stolen bases in 69 games. Two of those homers came Friday in the Mets' 5-1 win over the Reds, Reyes' latest showcase as he attempts to woo the club into re-signing him this winter.
"For sure, I want to stay here," Reyes said. "I can't control that. But I always say I want to finish my career here."
For the first time since leaving the Mets following the 2011 season, Reyes can be a free agent this offseason. But the circumstances this winter are wholly different. In 2011, Reyes was 28, the reigning National League batting champion. Now he is 34, his value tied as much to intangible factors as to his production.
Back then, the Mets showed almost no interest in Reyes, who ultimately signed with the Marlins, bounced to the Blue Jays, the Rockies and -- following a 52-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy -- ended up back in New York. The Mets' risk was minimal, given that they paid Reyes just a pro-rated portion of the league minimum salary. But the Mets also included a clause in the deal that kept Reyes under team control this season, also for the league minimum.
The idea was that Reyes could offer the Mets a measure of shortstop insurance while the team waited for top prospect Amed Rosario to arrive. Reyes has had no problem playing the part, becoming cozy with Rosario since even before the rookie's callup early last month.
He has also received more than his own share of playing time, taking reps at shortstop, second and third base, and left field -- all of it with a nod toward increasing his versatility for next season.
"No doubt about it, Jose Reyes, he's going to be somewhere," manager Terry Collins said. "And he'll be playing a lot, too."
When asked about his future, Reyes indicated he cares more about finishing his career in New York than he does about playing every day. The only question is whether the Mets will have enough roster space to carry him. Rosario will be the team's starting shortstop next season, and the Mets also hold a club option on Asdrubal Cabrera. Between those two, Gavin Cecchini, Matt Reynolds and a potential free-agent infield acquisition, the Mets don't necessarily need Reyes' services.
But it might not cost them much to give him another shot. Collins, who may not be around in 2018, either, described himself as a "huge Jose Reyes fan," in part because of how the veteran has mentored Rosario.
"We'll see what happens," Reyes said. "But for sure, I want to stay here. At this point in my career, being home is very important to me, staying close to my family. This is where everything started. I've been playing all over the place. So whatever the team needs me to do, I'm going to be open to do it. I feel like next year, this team is going to have a very good chance to win. I want to be part of it."