Jose Reyes to return to original MLB team in deal with Mets, per source

ATLANTA -- Shortly after Jose Reyes becomes a free agent at 1 p.m. ET Saturday, the New York Mets are expected to sign the 33-year-old shortstop, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

The Mets originally signed Reyes in 1999 as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic. He was a member of the organization for a dozen years, winning the National League batting title in 2011 then departing for a six-year, $106 million contract with the Miami Marlins.

Reyes was arrested Oct. 31 after a physical altercation with his wife at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea, Hawaii. He allegedly grabbed his wife, Katherine, by the throat and pushed her into a sliding-glass door in their hotel room. Reyes' wife declined to cooperate with prosecutors, and a judge in Hawaii formally dropped a domestic abuse charge in April.

Major League Baseball suspended Reyes without pay through May 31 for violating its domestic abuse policy. Reyes forfeited $6.25 million in salary as a result of the suspension.

"I want to apologize for everything that has happened," Reyes said in a statement released last month. "I am sorry to the Rockies organization, my teammates, all the fans and most of all my family. I am happy to put this all in the past and get back to doing what I love most, playing baseball. My wife Katherine has remained by my side throughout everything and for that I will be forever grateful."

After completing the suspension, Reyes appeared in nine games with Triple-A Albuquerque, hitting .303 with two homers, two RBIs and three steals in 33 at-bats. Still, the Rockies designated him for assignment last week. Unable to trade Reyes, the club placed him on waivers Thursday for the purpose of granting him his release, and Reyes became a free agent Saturday.

"At the end of the day we felt that it was best that we part ways -- best for the direction of the organization, best for what was going on in the clubhouse and best for Jose," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said last week.

The Rockies are responsible for the remaining $39 million owed to Reyes, minus a prorated portion of the $507,500 MLB minimum that the Mets would pick up.

The Mets originally indicated they were uninterested in a reunion with Reyes but did an about-face after getting swept by the Atlanta Braves last weekend at Citi Field.

Reyes is expected to need a tuneup period in the minors before joining the Mets. A natural shortstop, manager Terry Collins indicated that the staff has discussed several options for how to best use Reyes, including as an outfielder.

"We took Matt Reynolds and put him out there with no experience at all," Collins said, alluding to the rookie infielder starting Wednesday's game against the Kansas City Royals in left field. "This guy is as good an athlete as certainly Matt is. He's got the arm. He's got the foot speed for it. These are just things we're tossing around."

Reyes alternatively could serve as a second or third baseman or simply be a utility player. He will not dislodge Asdrubal Cabrera as the team's shortstop but would back him up.

Reyes likely would slot in as the team's leadoff hitter, a role he filled for the Mets during his first term with the club. Reyes had only a .310 on-base percentage last season with the Toronto Blue Jays and Rockies, but he did steal 24 bases in 116 games. The Mets have struggled to manufacture runs and have a glaring lack of speed. David Wright, who is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck, still leads the team with three steals.

Reyes continues to make his home in Old Brookville on Long Island, so a reunion with the Mets is doubly attractive. His first stint with the club was highlighted by pairing with Wright to come within a game of reaching the World Series in 2006.

"I haven't seen him in recent years, but he did a lot of things," said Collins, who managed Reyes during the 2011 season. "He was a good hitter. He could fly. He's got a great arm. He played very good shortstop. He brought a lot to the party.

"One of the things that probably caught my imagination was his joy of playing in New York. He loved it. That's why he moved there. He loved being there. He loved playing in New York. It's a tough place, because you're going to have some bad times and some bad days. But he always had a smile. And when he didn't, something was wrong, and you knew it. And that was the easiest kind of way to judge that it's time for a day off.

"In my time around him, he was a joy to be around."

General manager Sandy Alderson said earlier this week that character does play a role when the Mets are evaluating free agents. The Mets appear to have decided that Reyes had served his punishment and that his on-field value at a modest salary warranted signing him.

"There's a balance," Alderson said. "With respect to issues of character, those are things we take a look at. Those are things we don't ignore and are always taken into account when we make a player-acquisition decision."

The Mets have added Kelly Johnson and James Loney at low cost in recent weeks after losing Wright and first baseman Lucas Duda for prolonged periods. Duda is sidelined with a stress fracture in his lower back.