NEW YORK, NY - FILE: Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets celebrates after scoring in the seventh inning against the Florida Marlins at Citi Field on August 31, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Jim McIsaac/GETTY IMAGES)

Free agent and former New York Mets shortshop Jose Reyes has signed a multi-year contract with the Miami Marlins. As AP reported:

The suddenly splurging Miami Marlins landed their second big free agent in a matter of days, agreeing Sunday night to a $106 million, six-year contract with All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

Preparing to move into a $515 million retractable-roof ballpark, the Marlins have become a driving force in the market ahead of the winter meetings, which start Monday. They’ve also shown interest in acquiring one of the high-profile free-agent first basemen: Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols.

Reyes is following Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran out of New York, leaving David Wright and Johan Santana as the Mets’ last remaining stars. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson began hearing rumors of the deal Sunday afternoon.

“If the numbers are what are speculated and Jose does leave us, I don’t think people will be surprised that under those circumstances he went elsewhere. It doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it,” said Alderson, who spoke with Reyes’ agents earlier in the day. “There was an indication to me that things were moving. Exactly how far. I didn’t ask. I didn’t need to.”

The 28-year-old Reyes won the NL batting crown last season, becoming the first player in Mets history to do it. He hit .337 and also topped the league with 16 triples, while also stealing 39 bases.

Reyes is a four-time All-Star and three-time stolen base champion. But he has been prone to injuries in recent seasons, particularly to his hamstrings. He has not played more than 133 games in any of the last three years.

Losing Jose Reyes is a huge blow to Mets fans, but even more hurtful for next year are reports of large financial losses suffered by the club, which will limit its ability to bring in new talent. As Dave Sheinin explained:

For New York Mets fans, the worst news to emerge on Sunday, on the eve of baseball’s winter meetings, wasn’t the fact that shortstop Jose Reyes jumped ship via free agency and signed a six-year, $106 million deal with the division rival Miami Marlins – although that was plenty bad.

No, the worst news for Mets fans was what came out of General Manager Sandy Alderson’s mouth in the aftermath of Reyes’s deal with the Marlins. In addressing the loss of one of the Mets’ cornerstone players, Alderson revealed the team had lost some $70 million in 2011. If it’s true, the Mets’ plight may be far worse than anyone imagined, and the downsizing may have only gotten started.

It isn’t difficult to see how the Mets lost money last season – with a bloated payroll, a sharp drop in attendance, a hefty revenue-sharing payment and the looming threat of a lawsuit stemming from the Bernie Madoff scandal. But $70 million (again, if it’s accurate) is a staggering figure – larger than the total payrolls of a third of all Major League teams.

“When a team loses $70 million,” Alderson told reporters in Dallas, at the site of the winter meetings, “… that’s probably a bigger factor in our approach to this season and the next couple than anything else.”

So there it is: The Mets have become the Tampa Bay Rays, only without the recent playoff appearances. For the foreseeable future, the Mets, it appears, are going to shrink payroll, let their best players and walk away and try rebuilding through youth – except they have one of the worst farm systems in the game.

“If we get all our [injured] players back healthy,” Alderson said, “which would count among them people like Johan Santana, we’ll be fine.”

Well, that’s comforting. The Mets aren’t going to spend any significant money. They may dump more payroll. But if Johan Santana — who missed all of 2011 after the type of shoulder surgery that frequently ends careers — can come back good as new, all will be fine!

The Miami Marlins made another big roster move last week, signing closer Heath Bell to a three-year contract. As AP reported :

All-Star closer Heath Bell has agreed to a $27 million, three-year contract with the Miami Marlins, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press

The person spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced. The agreement,.which is subject to a physical, is the first free-agent deal for the Marlins since they began courtships last month with several top players. The deal was first reported by ESPN.

Bell had more than 40 saves each of the past three seasons for the San Diego Padres. This year he had 43 in 48 chances with a 2.44 ERA.

The Marlins are uncertain of the availability of their closer this year, Leo Nunez. He’s on the restricted list after he admitted to playing under an assumed name.

Nunez, whose real name is Juan Oviedo, had 36 saves in 42 chances this year with a 4.06 ERA.

The Marlins’ move into a new ballpark next year has improved their financial outlook, allowing them to become more active in free agency. The burly Bell was an All-Star for the third consecutive season this year, and made his appearance in the game memorable by sliding onto the infield grass before he took the ball to pitch. He’ll be reunited in Miami with former Padres relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica, who joined the Marlins a year ago.

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