If the Mets want to retain their shortstop past the 2011 season, they may have to start negotiating soon.

Jose Reyes, who will become a free agent for the first time in his career at the end of this season, addressed the issue at a Citi Field Kids charity event on Wednesday.

“I don’t want to talk about my contract during the season,” Reyes said. “I want to focus on doing my thing, trying to help this team win a lot of ballgames.”

Earlier this offseason, the Mets picked up the $16 million option on Reyes’ contract, a four-year, $23.25 million deal he signed in 2006.

The Mets are in a tough spot, which only becomes harder if Reyes wont negotiate during the season. Coming off two injury plagued seasons, Reyes’ stock has never been lower. He says he’s finally 100 percent, and a healthy Jose Reyes is something the Mets would love to have.

He’s always been the driving force behind their offense. Basically, when Reyes is healthy, the Mets score runs; it’s as simply as that.

Last season, in 133 games, Reyes hit .282 with 30 stolen bases and an OBP of .321.

The Mets do have a few options here, but none are particularly attractive.

They could sign Reyes to a long-term contract before the season starts and hope he’s able to stay healthy for a change.

They could chose not to work out a new deal before the start of the season, let it play out, and try to resign Reyes at the end of the regular season. The problem there is that Reyes will be a free agent and competition might be stiff if Reyes has a solid season.

The third option would be to not work out a new deal, let Reyes play the first half of the season and try to trade him at the deadline. The Mets have an excellent prospect in Ruben Tejada who could take over for Reyes at the shortstop position, but though he is excellent defensively, he didn’t show the Mets anything with his bat, hitting just .213 in 78 games last season.

If Reyes is playing well and the Mets don’t feel they’d be able to resign him, a trade is quite possible. However, the Mets would have to be out of the division race.

At the Winter Meetings, Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters that while no player is untouchable, “there are some players who would be very, very difficult [to trade].”

There are players on the Mets who are definitely difficult to trade, such as Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, but Reyes isn’t one of them. There are plenty of teams who could use a shortstop with Reyes’ combination of speed, defensive and excellent power to the gaps. However, Reyes isn’t likely to fetch the Mets much in terms of major league ready prospects given his current trade value.

Because of the time Reyes has missed in the last two seasons (155 games total), it’s easy to forget how durable Reyes has been in the past. From 2005 to 2008, Reyes appeared in at least 153 games each season.

If Reyes is finally fully healthy, he should be able to maintain that type of durability, so the Mets do have reasons to think a long-term deal for Reyes would work out.

On the other hand, the last thing the Mets need is another bad contract on an oft-injured player, even one as beloved as Reyes.

The Mets may need to make a decision sooner rather than later.

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