Hot! Wright Time Isn’t Now

When it comes to the Mets’ entertaining the idea of trading David Wright, let’s just say the timing has to be…not wrong.

 

(See what I did there?)

 

There already has been plenty of speculation that the Mets are open to hearing offers for their longtime third baseman this offseason. But so far, GM Sandy Alderson has taken the correct path by indicating it would take a knock-your-socks-off proposal for him to move Wright. Alderson is a savvy exec, so he, no doubt, recognizes why trading Wright at this time just doesn’t make sense. For a few reasons.

 

First, Mets fans are quickly coming to terms with a situation that the organization seems to have been privy to much sooner: free agent Jose Reyes, the dynamic, cornerstone shortstop, is all but gone. Combine the reports that the recently-renamed Miami Marlins have offered a 6-year, $90-million deal with the fact that Mets brass already has conveyed six years is too much of a gamble on an injury-prone player, and it appears Reyes has one foot out the door. Losing Reyes, the 2011 National League batting champion, is going to be bad enough. But letting Reyes walk and jettisoning Wright in the same offseason? If the fallout from the public relations nightmare of owner Fred Wilpon being taken in the Bernie Madoff scandal – not to mention, the corresponding impact on Wilpon’s pockets and the team’s payroll – isn’t quite enough to destroy the franchise’s fan base, this “winter of discontent” could certainly finish the job.

 

Besides that, though, there’s the simple issue of Wright’s performance. Once thought of as an elite player, the soon-to-be 29-year-old’s play has fluctuated in recent years to the point where Wilpon, in a controversial story in The New Yorker last May, called his own player, “A very good player. Not a superstar.” That sentiment may, in fact, be accurate, but it didn’t exactly pump up Wright’s trade value. Nor did Wright’s 2011 production, as he hit just .255 and posted a .771 OPS – both career-lows by wide margins – and suffered through a stress fracture in his back that kept the normally-durable third baseman on the DL for more than two months. Put it all together, and you get a player whose trade value is at an all-time low.

 

Which is why dealing Wright now is a mistake. Instead, the best course of action is to wait until July of 2012, when desperate teams in need of help at the hot corner and hoping to stay in the playoff hunt will inevitably come calling. Between now and then, it’s worth it for the Mets to gamble that Wright can prove he’s both fully healthy and back to his productive self – hey, think the team’s decision to move the Citi Field fences in and lower them has anything to do with this? – which would rebuild his trade value enough to bring back a nice return to Flushing.

 

Now there is the issue of Wright’s contract. He’s due $15 million in 2012 and $16 million in 2013 via a team option – both amounts are reasonable, provided he’s close to the player he was before last season – but there’s a clause in his contract that allows Wright to void the deal after 2012 if he’s traded. That gives the Mets less leverage on the trade market, certainly, since Wright would be in position to opt for free agency, and if he’s coming off a strong season, he’d surely have enough suitors to obtain a multi-year deal approaching $100 million. That would leave any team that wants to acquire him next July with the likelihood of losing him at season’s end, thus limiting his trade value.

 

But from Wright’s point of view, he could be motivated to guarantee his 2013 option with his new team, which would obviously be a postseason contender, especially if the alternative is being stuck on a sinking Mets ship for the rest of 2012 and all of 2013. In that scenario, Wright would still have the opportunity to test free agent waters at age 31, which would be the same result should he stay in New York. And there’s always the chance that the acquiring team could try to work out an extension with Wright as a prerequisite to any deal.

 

Bottom line: The clause is going to cut into Wright’s value to some extent. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t still bring back a pretty hefty return or that the Mets shouldn’t trade him come July. If anything, regardless of his contract situation, a healthy, productive Wright should be able to fetch at least as much, if not more than what Alderson received when he unloaded Carlos Beltran. After all, just like Wright, Beltran was in the middle of a bounceback season and coming up on the end of his contract, and the Mets used him to get prime pitching prospect Zach Wheeler at last year’s deadline. With the franchise badly in need of buying entirely into the rebuilding process, accumulating more players like Wheeler – young, cost-controlled talent with serious potential – is the best path possible.

 

Picture a scenario in the middle of next summer – not too far from now, but also oh-so far away in other respects – once Reyes has been gone for a while, and Mets fans are seeing just how rough things are, even with Wright, as the team trudges through another lost season. By then, the idea of trading away Wright will seem less like Alderson is cutting of the Mets nose to spite its franchise face – and more like a smart and necessary decision with an eye toward the future.

 

In short: By then, the time will be just – you guessed it – Wright.

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Follow Jason on Twitter @JayCat11.

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Jason Catania

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