- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Jose Reyes is keeping his options open, which could make it hard for the New York Mets to afford him.

The star shortstop told the team he’s not interested in negotiating a new contract during the season, perhaps increasing the chances that the cash-strapped club will put him on the trading block.

The 28-year-old Reyes can become a free agent after the World Series and could be one of the biggest prizes on the open market next winter. He said he wants to remain with the Mets, but doesn’t want any off-the-field distractions right now.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about me (being) comfortable,” Reyes said Tuesday. “Nothing’s changed. I want to stay here. Like I always say, I want to be a New York Met all my career. But right now I just want to play baseball.”

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he reached out last week to Reyes‘ agent, Peter Greenberg, and asked about the possibility of negotiating a new deal during the season.

Reyes, the NL batting leader, met with his representatives at home Monday and they informed the Mets they would rather wait until after the season to talk about a contract.

“We will respect his wishes and hopefully pick up negotiations at the end of the season,” Alderson said.

New York will be the only team allowed to negotiate with Reyes for a brief period following the World Series. But after that, he can field offers from anyone.

“We’re going to have plenty of time in the offseason (to) make this happen. But right now I just want to play without a distraction,” said Reyes, a fan favorite who has spent his entire professional career with the Mets. “My agent said from the beginning, from spring training, he doesn’t like to do any contract negotiations during the season. So for me right now the only thing that I can do right now is continue to play. I don’t want to put any distractions on my mind because that’s going to affect the way that I perform on the field.”

Reyes‘ stance puts the Mets in a difficult position _ especially if they stay on the fringe of the wild-card race this summer. Trade him for prospects before the July 31 deadline and they essentially give up on the season while infuriating an already frustrated fan base.

Keep him for the rest of 2011 and risk losing him on the free-agent market for nothing more than a pair of draft picks as compensation.

It’s a dilemma that small-market teams like Cleveland and Florida face all the time. But in New York, where the Yankees outspend everyone, it’s not as common.

“That element of uncertainty is a factor, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a determinative factor,” Alderson said. “We’ll just have to weigh it as time goes on. Obviously we want to act in the best interests of the Mets long-term and you know at this point, by virtue of having reached out to Jose, I think that’s an indication that we feel that having Jose with us long-term would be a real positive. At the same time, we’ll just have to see where events take us over the next four or five weeks.”

The Mets‘ situation, of course, is more dicey due to their financial problems.

The club’s owners are facing a $1 billion lawsuit because of their business with Bernard Madoff, and it’s unclear how long it will take for the case to play out.

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