At the David Wright signing press conference the other day, we were treated to another Jeff Wilpon appearance. Depending on one’s point of view and mood at the time, the idea of Jeff’s speaking in public is either humorous or scary. Always looking for a quick cheap shot, I tweeted that Jeff should never be allowed near a microphone. Unlike many of my easily ignored tweets, this was quickly retweeted a number of times through the Twitter world. No surprise right? I picked an easy target. But later on, after reading the transcripts from that day, I had jokester’s remorse. I kept looking at a particular quote from Jeff regarding R.A. Dickey, “He’ll be a great bargain at $5 million playing out next season for us.” And I kept coming away with the following thought: I agree. Taking Jeff’s side is not a popular point of view, but it makes sense and fair is fair.
I see a big mistake in the media treatment of the Dickey negotiations and the Wright negotiations, and that is both are being treated the same. However, the circumstances are not the same. I will stay away from which player is more popular and more important to keep on the 2013 team for marketing purposes. Let’s keep it simple and say the two men are equal. But their circumstances are not equal. We are talking about players of different ages, playing different positions, and with different existing contracts prior to their extensions.
David Wright is 30 and a third baseman. He had $16 million in guaranteed money in 2013 and then eligibility to be a free agent. These factors gave Wright a lot of leverage. If the Mets let Wright play out his contract, the 30-year-old Wright was still owed $16 million this year. Given Wright’s great durability, age, and the position he plays, the odds were very high that at the end of the year he would be in very good shape to move on as a free agent. And with a $16 million a year current commitment, there was very little to be gained in the short term for the Mets by waiting. As we have seen from the contract Wright agreed to, the Mets actually gained short-term flexibility by extending him.
R.A. Dickey, on the other hand, is 38 and a pitcher. He is owed $5 million in guaranteed money in 2013 and then eligibility to be a free agent. So, who has the leverage here? According to Jeff Wilpon, it is the Mets. That sounds right to me.
Let’s play out the scenario of Dickey playing for $5 million this year. The Mets have more money to spend on position players and still have Dickey. If Dickey pitches great, he could help the Mets contend. If the Mets were to actually contend, paying Dickey more for 2014 and beyond could be afforded, especially with Johan coming off the books. And if Dickey pitches great and the Mets do not contend, he could still be dealt at the break, like Beltran. The market for a half season of Dickey if he were pitching great with that contract would be huge. Every contending team in baseball would be interested. I look at those possibilities and figure Jeff is making a heck of a lot of sense this time.
Now how would this be from the Dickey side? He is 38 and pitches. He will only be guaranteed the $5 million for 2013. Pitchers get hurt at a high rate every year, and the older the pitcher the greater the chance. I’m sure not rooting for it but R.A. could easily go down, and his current contract could be his last meaningful one. His insurance against this is to extend the current contract now for the best deal he can get from the Mets. Nobody else. And the Mets are negotiating that way, they understand that the current team friendly deal they have with R.A. is a factor and needs to be considered. That is fair and smart. I like the approach.
Hey, writing this makes me uncomfortable. I really like R.A. Dickey. Jeff Wilpon makes my skin crawl a little. OK, a lot. But R.A. Dickey is under contract for 2013, a good deal that the Mets negotiated, and that means the Mets are in good shape here. Jeff keeps pointing that out, and he is right. Jeff is right. Oh, boy, it’s the first sign of the apocalypse.