Author’s Note: This piece is inspired by recent media speculation on a topic which is clearly on the mind of every Met fan right now, and also by The Sunday Question appearing today on this site, courtesy of my esteemed colleague Gonzo Will.
Tabloid media member Joel Sherman has posited, supposedly based on many conversations with MLB execs, that David Wright would want/get an extension beyond his 2013 club option of about 7 years and $127 million. This is based on contracts for players like Ryan Zimmerman and Johan Santana, and also somewhat based on Wright’s intrinsic value to the club as a homegrown fixture.
Assuming that this is even close to resembling truth, it is a disaster in the making, and simply not in the best interests of the team going forward.
David Wright is a very good player; this is certainly true. But he has not been the great David Wright since 2008. From 2005—2008 Wright was a true star every year. Whether measuring by WAR, more traditional means, MVP votes, annual All Star Game appearances, 2007—2008 Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves, Wright was one of the best young players in the game and seemed poised for a Hall of Fame career.
But it has not continued like that. Be it Citi Field or the pressure of losing some of his colleagues from 2006—2008, 2009 started out differently. He still hit for average and got on base, but his power disappeared. After the Cain beaning later that year, when he returned, he was not the same player. In 2010, Wright hit his 2B and HR, but BB, K, BA, and OBP were all diminished from his glory years. 2011, largely due to injuries, was by far his worst year. In 2012, Wright was having an MVP first half, but after the break, he reverted to his 2011 production. His 2012 WAR was outstanding, but is skewed by his first half and his excellent defense—for nearly half of the season, he simply was not a player you pay $18 million for.
So what to think? Wright turns 30 soon. He would be 31 when this extension begins. How many 7-year deals beginning at age 31 turn out well?
Based on various blog comments and polls, it appears that a large number of fans—if not a sizable majority—seem to favor this. It appears as though, however, a significant number of frequent commenters at these sites do not. What this may show is that the more casual fan, who attends a few games a year, watches many on TV, and who owns a Wright jersey (which will be available in exciting new designs in 2013) supports this. While, on the other hand, the more serious fan who truly wants their team to win regardless of who is on the field, might not support this in nearly as great numbers.
It seems like this idea, again, if true, is more of a marketing ploy than a serious move to improve the team. Wright is beloved. Despite the small minority which unfairly blames him for the failures of 2007 and 2008, he was indeed great those years, especially late in the season. He has played though injuries, been stoic through four seasons now of disastrous results, and seems like a great person.
But the time to move on is now.
The Mets are building what has the potential to be a great rotation. The hope here is for a return of Dickey and an extension, as the roughly 3/40 which all signs point to him costing would be a fraction of the commitment to Wright, and the value he has provided during his entire Met career argues strongly that this is a risk well worth taking. Niese put up his by far best year, is 26, and is signed for years. Harvey exceeded most expectations in his debut season and appears poised for stardom. Gee, if healthy, is a very solid number five. A healthy Johan possibly replaced in-season by Wheeler to complete the staff has the potential to be among the league’s best. Yes, everyone must be healthy, Harvey must continue his ascent, and Wheeler must follow in Harvey’s footsteps. But every Met fan, even those hardened by cynicism after recent years, has to see the sterling potential here.
As teams ranging from the 1960s Dodgers to the 1969 Mets right up to the current Giants show, titles can be won with great starting pitching, solid bullpens, and just a bunch of good fundamental players around them. Sure, some teams like the Big Red Machine and the 1986 Mets were powerhouses both offensely and pitching-wise—but the current Mets are simply nowhere close to putting together a championship-level offense. Those who argue against giving up our “best player” are failing to note that this is not like the 1970s Reds giving up Morgan to still have Bench and Rose and more, or the 1986 Mets giving up Keith to still have Darryl and Carter and more. There’s nothing close to star level after Wright, but there are some decent pieces. Meaning that trading Wright would not be breaking up an outstanding offensive core in any way.
The feeling here is that Ike and Tejada are two excellent pieces for a team centered on starting pitching to build on. Both fine fielders, Tejada has a sound all-around game and great plate discipline, and Ike has a knack for belting HRs with men on base. Perhaps Wilmer Flores is your 3B in two years. Maybe one of the prospects acquired for Wright fills another spot. If just one or two others from within the organization develop well and money not spent on Wright is used to bring in a fine outfielder, in 2014 you could see a team surprisingly close to contention.
There’s no doubt that trading Wright would cause serious repercussions within a large segment of the fan base. But this is not trading Seaver in 1977–it’s not a move made simply due to utter apathy regarding winning. This is a move which must be made with the recent past and the near future in mind. Sure, finances play a part, as the team does not project to be a team which can spend its way out of errors, as they did to a degree under Minaya, and in the manner teams like the Yanks, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, etc., do and have recently done. Yes, the Met payroll will be decent, but the days of it being among the league’s highest are gone for the foreseeable future. This must be taken into consideration.
Does Wright deserve this deal if it is 2007 or 2008? Most definitely. But it isn’t. Imagine if he does sign this deal, and 2013—2016’s Wright numbers are precisely what 2009—2012’s were. That would make this deal look pretty bad, and there is indeed a much greater likelihood of that than for him returning to his 2005—2008 form.
Does Wright deserve to be overpaid because he is (largely by default based on recent years) the “face of the franchise?” Is his wearing a Met uniform his entire career more important than the team’s overall performance?
Examining recent history, the Mets’ current financial situation, Wright’s career, the current strengths of this team, and how many everyday positions are currently lacking in talent and long-term hope, common sense seems to dictate—and with a very clear and reasonable voice—that trading David Wright for the best package of prospects and/or young players you can obtain is quite clearly the right move.
Let’s hope the Met front office thinks with their heads and not their hearts on this very important matter.