Sandy’s Biggest Move: Signing David Wright, for Better or for Worse

DavidWrightDealJimmy:

It’s funny, many of us tend to ignore the obvious. During his tenure here with the Mets, by far the single-biggest decision that Sandy Alderson has made was to sign David Wright to an 8 year, $138 million contract.

A while back I noted a column that listed Sandy’s 5 best moves — a list that included trading Marlon Byrd and signing Bartolo Colon — and yet ignored the Wright signing. Dumb, but telling: It was his quietest move because nothing changed on the field.

We overlooked it the other day, while comparing the work of Theo Epstein and Sandy Alderson. We failed to mention the Wright signing. Obviously, Theo did not have a David Wright. But I wonder: Do you think Theo might have traded him?

Mike:

If Wright was to be traded it needed to be done quickly and decisively. Omar Minaya had him signed to a great contract, which would have made his value in November 2010 off the charts.

Jimmy:

If the Mets traded Wright, they conservatively would have landed a couple of top prospects, while cratering at the ML level, leaving them in better position for the draft. Of course, that would have meant a real rebuild. Maybe the bottom would have dropped out with fan support.

Mike:

The bottom dropped out anyway. Fans left the building in droves, especially once the more exciting Jose Reyes was allowed to leave via free agency. I guess ratings and attendance would Marlins Phillies Baseballhave been worse in 2011, but after that I don’t see any difference. When I went to games last year the place was a ghost town, it has not been like that in Flushing in thirty years. If any moves were made that would have had the team lose more games it would have had no effect on the revenue line. Fans are smart here, they know there is no difference between winning 75 games or 65 games. There are playoff contenders and there are playoff pretenders. Since Reyes and Beltran were exiled there has been no doubt which of those the Mets were.

Jimmy:

But David Wright is still here, and should still be a premium player in 2015-1017.  Though here we are and our best hitting prospect, Wilmer Flores — possibly our only hitting prospect for a while — is a third baseman without a position. Zach Lutz can’t find a way onto the field. And Murphy is best at 3B.

I’m not arguing that Wright should have been traded. Or that the Wilpons would have ever allowed it. (The feeling here is that they ordered the signing, fearful of the backlash.) But it’s interesting to wonder if the organization would be in better shape today if they moved David Wright back in 2010.

A thought puzzle: Let’s say we got two functional prospects out of the haul, two young guys on the field right now. That’s conservative, realistic. You also have the financial savings. David is going to make $20 million this year. Suddenly you have that money to spend on other things.

Mike:

There’s one problem with the hypothesis. Where would that money go? It’s not like the K-Rod, Beltran, Reyes, Bay or Santana dollars were totally replaced. Not even close. Instead the team’s payroll goes down annually. In other words, it’s hard to analyze the Mets moves with logic. The ownership mess hangs over every move.

So you could have two young guys on the field now, and that might be it.

Jimmy:

I think it’s fair to assume the same payroll budget. Wright is getting $20 million. That’s money that could have gone elsewhere. Sandy had it and spent it on David. He might have spent it on something else. I don’t see them at a $68 million budget.

Mike:

When the payroll number was at $140 million I couldn’t find anyone who could envision $85 million, including me. Yet here we are. Every spending decision by this team is analyzed in depth, and in isolation. I’m less confident than you that our payroll would be at $85 million without David. Maybe it wouldn’t be at $68 million, maybe it would be at $75 million, who knows with this bunch. I do know that Wright is the face of this franchise and will potentially break every offensive team record. His contract will pay for itself, which made it an easier sell to insolvent owners and their conservative creditors. Just because the team keeps acting like New York is a small market doesn’t mean it is.

david-wright-captain-americaAnd also, the two players we picked up might have flamed out in the minors. There is a weird assumption with a lot of people in the Mets fanbase these days that all prospects become productive major league players. They don’t. So, we could have ended up with no David Wright and nothing on the field. When you look at Baseball Prospectus Top 100 list from February 2011 many of those names include current star players. They also include many busts. If we look at the Blue Jays, the team we eventually made the Dickey trade with, their top two prospects at the time were pitcher Kyle Drabek, #14, and catcher J.P. Arencibia, #38. It’s hard to imagine either of those guys helping the Mets much in 2014 and beyond.

My point is the prospect end of it is always a gamble, the only sure thing in these deals is the star player being dealt away, and the cash being freed up. But with the Mets there is the added issue of whether the Wilpons would have reallocated David’s salary. Given our owners I can see why Sandy held the popular Wright.

Jimmy:

Sandy is not an aggressive GM. And at times, he’s brutally stagnant. The moves he makes tend to be the ones that he’s forced to make. I think he had to sign Wright, and I think he had support for it at the top. The Wilpons live in fear of WFAN exploding, that’s when they act and heads roll.

Mike:

When Sandy did sign Wright, it was to a fantastic team-friendly contract. Wright was scheduled to become a free agent this offseason. Look at what the Mets signed David for, and compare it to the Choo and Ellsbury deals.

  • David Wright, eight years, $138 million
  • Shin Soo Choo, seven years, $130 million
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, seven years, $153 million

Would anyone in their right minds trade Wright for either of those players?

Jimmy:

No, absolutely not. OTOH, a small-market team would trade that kind of contract, for a player on the wrong side of his peak years, for young, affordable talent. The Mets kept the face of the Zigging and Zaggingfranchise, but by doing so missed an opportunity for a creative rebuild. To your other point, yes, not all prospects turn out. But neither do all big free agency signings. In the end, the Mets zigged, but it’s interesting to wonder what might have happened if they had zagged.

To be clear: I think David Wright has been a great Met, a wonderful player. I also feel the Wilpons have squandered his best years. To even consider trading him, you would have had to make it strictly between the lines — ignoring the fans, publicity, revenue, storyline, etc. And obviously, you can’t ignore all of those off-the-field factors, since that’s part of what you are buying with the $138 million. Call it “good will.” It’s rarely just a baseball decision. Because strictly baseball, I don’t think it’s a deal that Sandy normally makes.

Mike

By the time Sandy addressed Wright, three years after becoming GM, it was too late to do anything but make the best deal he could with David. That is not a complaint from me. One, Sandy made a great deal with Wright. Two, David is a once-in-a-lifetime player, the chances of trading David and getting back players who ever truly replaced him is remote. Wright was once again the best player on the team in 2013, and shows no signs of slowing down.

As this franchise once again focuses on winning, the task is less daunting knowing we have one cornerstone in place.

 

 

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13 comments

  1. Reese Kaplan says:

    At the time of the Wright signing the team was in even more precarious financial straits than they are now. It was foolish to spend that kind of money when they could have parlayed him into 2-3 Zack Wheeler/Noah Syndergaard level prospects AND saved $138 million in the process that could have gone to address other issues (such as SS). Fast forward to today and you would likely see Wilmer Flores manning 3rd and more prudent roster construction than when 3 guys comprise the majority of the payroll.

    Wright’s a star…no doubt about it. However, he’s not a superstar. He’s a star in comparison to other Mets, for sure. However, don’t pretend he’s in the same class as a Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout.

  2. IB says:

    Personally, I’m very glad Wright is still a Met and a sure thing, as you state above. Some fans will find fault with every move made or not made, every in game strategy, every every lineup choice, every nuance. I don’t see the point of being a fan if that’s all there is. BTW, what conscious, breathing Met fan would ever pretend Wright is Cabrera or Trout? I wonder.

  3. Michael Geus says:

    Topics like these are difficult to discuss. The New York Mets should not have to agonize over Wright versus Drew or Jose Abreu. The answer should be all of the above. How would this team look then?

    It is hard to rationally discuss the team, as the ownership situation creates an insane business model.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      There were ample scenarios laid out in October and November before the market began moving underneath this front offices nose that showed how the Mets could be at a budget of approximately $110MM in 2014-2015 while having upgraded 1B, SS and went after a better OF than Chris Young, while still getting Granderson and applying similar dollars to what was given Colon to frankly Colon or a number of other free agent pitchers.

      So in short, you are correct, it should have been all of the above.

      I think the one thing that is problematic about Drew is that he is hung to dry by the CBA, there is clearly no market for a guy like him if it means losing a draft pick.

    • Yes, exactly. In a sane world, you count your lucky stars that David Wright came along — he’s practically perfect — and you retain him, move on to other things.

      Only in a desperate situation do you consider dumping a guy like that.

      Even the shitty Wilpons realized it.

      But on a academic level, the thought experiment, it’s interesting (to me) to think about. When the timetable shifts, and the team isn’t going to be good until 2015 (at best, hopefully), then you have to wonder about the efficacy of big money for a veteran in slow decline.

      Sandy decided not to crater. And he figured — I believe — that he was smart enough to Macgyver together a competitive, plus-.500 team out of bubble gum, shoe strings, and tin foil. Maybe he over-estimated the talent of Davis, Tejada, Duda, etc. But something went wrong the last few years.

  4. wkkortas says:

    Wright isn’t a Trout or Cabrera, for sure–but he’s the best third baseman in the NL right now, and while the Mets could have probably gotten value for him before he signed his current deal, it’s unlikely they could now (not to mention that sending up the fire sale white flag by trading him would probably cause an actual riot). That said, the Mets should be, as Branch Rickey once said about Ralph Kiner, be willing to be overwhelmed.

  5. Raff says:

    Mike> Does this post represent an “evolution” in how you view the Mets SPENDING on their roster? Back on March 18 Eraff stated *****

    “Mike… NEW Spending?!!! C’mon! I don’t believe “The Fan Base” received a message of “more spending” to mean merely refilling on expired deals….and I don’t believe any of us Here felt that “more spending” meant SAME DOLLARS-NEW PLAYERS…… ONLY.
    (OK> FAIRDISCLOSURE – Eraff & I are brothers- SO, I agree with him 49% of the time).

    You responded to is post::::
    “If you do not think there was any new spending you have already failed math”

    Today you stated: “I’m less confident than you that our payroll would be at $85 million without David. Maybe it wouldn’t be at $68 million, maybe it would be at $75 million, who knows with this bunch”

    So, do you now agree generally, with what Eraff stated on March 18?

    • Michael Geus says:

      No, they spent $30 million this offseason on new contracts. I’ve never said the overall payroll is at a logical level. Never. But that does not negate the fact that this spending did take place.

      Let me try again, since math isn’t for everyone. You seem to also have a problem with it.

      Three new players.

      Granderson, $15 million
      Colon, $8 million
      Young, $7.5 million

      15 + 8 = 23

      23 + 7.5 = 30.5

      I’m not dreaming, those guys are now Mets, no?

      • Raff says:

        I’m actually really good at math. Oh, yeah- THOSE GUYS are NEW— But the SPENDING is not NEW.,- The players acquired don’t represent an organizational commitment to Additional new spending, in total. So, I guess this depends on what one regards as New Spending. All I’m trying to say, and this seems to echo what you said today and Eraff said on March 18, is this- There is no commitment to investing further on the roster. You stated that the Mets might have taken the roster $68 mil, if it weren’t for the Wright Contract. Every year, for the past 4 years, the Mets have recouped roster $$ and spent lower than the past year. this year, they stayed “level” , in spite of a $25 Mil influx. You continue to defend and indefensible position, even as your post today indicates that you agree with what I have stated. ODD. Illogical. You can’t take both positions. So that’s just my thoughts from my 2-guys barstool. ;-)

        • Michael Geus says:

          We bought a new rug today. I considered that a new expense, even though it is replacing an old rug. However, if you are right, this is not a new expense, which makes me feel like a complete jerk because I paid for it today with previously unspent money.

          I should have just told the salesman it was a replacement rug. But I didn’t.

          Because I am odd and illogical.

          Got it.

  6. Raff says:

    Fair enough- But if you were paying for the old rug on a finance plan – A CONTRACT– And if it cost you 10 bucks for your last payment, in the last year of the CONTRACT- and, AFTER that CONTRACT expired, you replaced it with a new rug which you purchased on a payment plan at 10 bucks per year- on a NEW CONTRACT> Your total CONTRACT cost for the beautiful new rug (roster) you purchased is not NEW spending- it just represents a replacement/renewal of the CONTRACT which you already had. It seems as if you were saying this in the post, regarding the Mets- Specific to your post – you stated that the Mets Management could not be trusted to replace, much less enhance their spending, had they cut Wright loose. Your logic on THAT was rock-solid- Based upon their performance thus far. ESPN reports the Mets Payroll for 2014 as $82Mil http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/salaries/_/name/nym/new-york-mets Does this represent an increase over 2013? I guess this all revolves around what your definition of “new” is

    • Why are you persisting in this foolish debate? Mike is correct, and you are correct, but at least Mike is clear about what he’s talking about. Spending is spending. He can’t possibly be wrong about that. No one denies that overall payroll did not go up, so it’s impossible for me to see what the argument is here. What’s the point? They spend money but did not increase the annual investment in payroll. From what I can tell, we all know this.

      If this keeps up, the next sound you’ll hear is crickets.

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