The shortstop shortage

If the Mets lose Jose Reyes, they would have a tough time finding a reasonable replacement. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Eight years ago, the class of major league catchers was older than it had been at any time in the last 60 years. In 2003, the average major league backstop was over 30 years old. In the early- to mid-1990s, there had been an influx of strong catchers into the majors, among them Javy Lopez, Jorge Posada, Jason Kendall, Jason Varitek, Charles Johnson, Mike Lieberthal and Ivan Rodriguez, all of them except for Kendall born between November 1970 and July 1972. A few years after the turn of the millennium, those players were now in their early 30s, but the next generation had largely failed to arrive in the interim.

This is not at all unusual; baseball has always gone through cycles in which a position suffers through a dearth of qualified applicants. There was even a moment in the American League of the late 1940s when shortstops outhit the first basemen -- somehow the circuit just couldn't find any solid mashers to stand at the gateway. Currently, the biggest void at any position is shortstop, and that makes the Mets' handling of impending free agent Jose Reyes that much trickier because he is one of the game's rarest commodities, a star shortstop in his prime.