There is no question that clarifying David Wright’s situation is the biggest current issue for Sandy Alderson (with R.A. Dickey right behind him). If we could project a normal big market payroll for the Mets in 2013 and beyond the answer as to what to do here would be much clearer. You just sign him. But Alderson has made it clear that we need to live in a different salary tier right now as our owners cling to their team and continue to restructure their finances. So I will use that caveat, that the team does not exceed a payroll of $100 million in either 2013 or 2014, when discussing my opinion on whether we should sign him. It is what it is. And despite those constraints my position is firm – if at all possible you extend David Wright.
Let’s begin with some emotional and business reasons beyond wins and losses. Sandy Alderson talks a lot about the value of homegrown players to a team and its fans. Of course the biggest value is at the start of the relationship as teams have contractual control before the arbitration and free agency years. But there is more to it than that, fans form an emotional attachment to players and it is only logical that the attachment will be greater the longer the relationship. Fan is short for fanatic, and although it is the job of the General Manager not to act like a fan himself it is important that he understand how the fans think. And this correlates to dollars, fans buy tickets based on many factors (and yes wins and losses are number one) but love of a player is high on the list. Sometimes this is based on being part of a few very special years (Gary Carter) or an incredible moment (Ray Knight, Endy Chavez) but a true franchise stalwart instills memories in fans for their entire lives. If signed, Wright should destroy the Met record book and be our clear all-time position player. There is value to that, financial value, that should not be forgotten when evaluating a Wright deal.
However signing Wright is not just a sentimental thought. To be successful you need a few core players that you know will produce and then you continually build and fill around that. As we have seen in the last few years it is important, especially if your team has a lower payroll, that any high end players you have be consistent performers. When you look at David Wright’s career you see that consistency and equally important you see durability, only one season with less than 140 games played. Wright is also an all around player as he plays an above average third base.
As for fitting Wright within our payroll structure I do not see this as a big issue. Wright was already in the 2012 payroll at $15.2 million and is scheduled to be paid $16 million in 2013. If we keep Wright we do lose flexibility to retool in 2013. But what David Wright trade is there that will help us in 2013? I can’t see it, a trade would bring back a prospect or prospects and make the 2013 roster that much weaker. If his salary were to be reinvested, who is the player that makes that an improvement to the roster? The free agent class is weak. We have to face facts, we are hoping for miracles in 2013.
But as we look to 2014 keeping him and signing him to an extension will not be a major hindrance to our ability to make moves, as Santana and Bay will roll off the payroll opening up a lot of room even if the team’s salary scale remains at current levels. After 2014, well whatever the plan is it better not be to run this team like we are in Kansas City forever.
When we start seeing some reported numbers on dollars and years maybe perceptions will change. But right now a six year extension (seven including 2013) does not scare me at $20 million a year. Not signing him scares me a lot as it would be another signal that success is not important to our owners, only survival.