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Mets Exactly Right To Sign WrightPosted on November 30, 2012 at 10:36 AM.
For one day, there should be absolutely zero negativity surrounding the New York Mets. The embattled franchise has done exactly what it needed to do by signing David Wright to a seven year contract extension said to be worth approximately $122 million. With Wright’s one remaining season on his current deal, the Mets are committing to the next eight years for $138 million or so. This contract will pay Wright through his age 38 season and should give the Mets their first elite player to have played his entire career in Queens. It was a move they had to make; It was a move that was smart on more than one level.
First, the Mets are getting one of the best third basemen in Major League Baseball. Since coming up in 2004 as a 21 year old rookie, Wright has averaged .301/.384/.505 with 38 doubles, 2 triples, 24 home runs, 97 RBI, and 20 stolen bases per season. While he struggled with home run power during the first season at Citi Field, he has hit at least 21 home runs in seven of his eight full seasons. Adding to the package, Wright turned in his best defensive season of his career in 2012 by compiling a UZR of 15.4 and a DRS of 16, his best totals since 2008.
Of course, there can be some debate about why the Mets would commit this money to a player who is about to be 30 years old and during a time when the organization is under a financial crisis. The Wilpons, as has been reported numerous times, are operating on a strict budget because of their losses in the Madoff scandal. That budget restriction has led to operate like a small market team. Their $94 million payroll of 2012 was their lowest total since 2002. Last season, they let another franchise-type player in Jose Reyes sign with the Marlins. There wasn’t even a negotiation to keep the homegrown star. With the current reality of the Wilpon ownership, some could make a reasonable case that signing Wright for essentially the rest of his career could hamstring the organization.
It’s a foolish argument.
First, only Wright and pitcher Jon Niese are currently under contract beyond the 2013 season. Because the Mets have been operating as small market team, there is some financial flexibility that is coming. With a front office of Sandy Alderson, JP Ricciardi, and Paul DePodesta, the Mets have the ability to make smart decisions and should have the ability to surround Wright with a competitive team, even if the Wilpons hold on to the team and can’t invest like a New York team should. They have two highly regarded young pitchers in Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler. Jeurys Familia and Brandon Nimmo also look promising. With Johan Santana’s salary coming off the books after this season, some minor league talent, and the front office making good on their promise to evaluate talent, there is still the ability to win with the small market mentality.
Perhaps a more important reason has nothing really to do with baseball or statistics. As much as we want to treat this game as fantasy baseball or analyze it, it is still a game about people. It is a game about connection. The fans connect with players, not the laundry. Yes, free agency forces a slight change in that mentality with player changing teams quite often. But, baseball is built on watching players, growing up with players, and passing on stories. Every organization has that connection. The Yankees have it with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Mattingly, Jeter, Rivera, etc. The Dodgers have Koufax, Robinson; the Orioles have Ripken. Almost every franchise has that one guy.
The Mets haven’t had that one guy. It should’ve been Tom Seaver, but they traded him away once and then allowed him to be scooped up again in 1984. Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry should’ve been those guys, but they failed to live up to those expectations. It could’ve been Jose Reyes, but the Mets evidently chose to make it David Wright.
They chose well because Wright’s skills project to age better than Reyes. Wright can be shifted to first base if he can no longer play third towards the end of the deal. A New York market should allow for both, but under the present circumstances, the Mets chose well.
David Wright is now the face of the Mets. He took his second consecutive team friendly deal to make that happen. There is no doubt that he would’ve received more had he become a free agent after 2013. Having that one person is something needed, especially for the beleaguered franchise that has given very little back to its fans in recent years. The Mets have struggled for the past few seasons yet they continue to raise ticket prices. They haven’t signed anyone of note and continually are in the news for all of the wrong things. If the organization had not signed Wright, it would’ve been disastrous and perhaps a final blow to fan base that has taken quite a few over the years.
People aren’t going to buy tickets just because David Wright is signed. But, it is a step in the right direction. There is, or at least should be, a comfort in knowing that ownership is committed to keeping the best offensive player the franchise has ever had. The move doesn’t make the Mets better as there is still quite a bit of work to be done on the roster before Spring Training. But, the signing is a foundation. It’s a foundation that inspires a little more trust from the fans and gives other players a reason to sign with the Mets. They aren’t the Marlins. They will commit to the long term. The Mets have one of the best third basemen in the sport signed. They can build around that.
This was a move that was necessary for the Mets. They now have a franchise player who will be with the team long after he retires. Presently, they have one of the most productive players in the sport. Since 2008, David Wright has compiled a 24.4 WAR. That ranks 14th best in Major League Baseball and sixth best in the National League. He is, despite some perceptions, one of the elite players in the sport. And, the Mets won’t be paying him into his 40’s, something that should allow them to get a good return on this investment.
Having David Wright is a good first step for the New York Mets restoring their credibility after a period of chaos. They still have to surround him with talent and still have many holes to fill. But, their foundation is set and they have made a signing that makes sense on and off the field. It also gives them some credibility. The Nationals have their third baseman Ryan Zimmerman locked up. The Rays just secured Evan Longoria for the long term. Now, the Mets have their franchise player signed to a similar deal. David Wright is every bit as good as the other two. It was the right move to make.
How many times have the Mets heard that over the past few seasons?
Gary Armida is a staff writer for Operation Sports and also operates fullcountpitch.com. Join him on twitter @garyarmida
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