A lot of the recent chatter surrounding the Mets has been about whether they will re-sign David Wright to a long-term extension. Now, I think it's far from a foregone conclusion that even if the Mets pony up for Wright, he'll sign on the dotted line. His recent comments lend one to believe that they'll have to show him more than just the money, but a commitment to putting a winning team on the field during the years of his extension. But this FanPost will assume for the sake of argument that Wright would sign a fair-market-value contract extension with the Mets. My question is: would this be a good idea for the Mets in the long term? I'm not entirely sure the answer is yes.
David Wright is unquestionably the best offensive player for the Mets this year and a true MVP candidate. Moreover, he's one of the Mets' all-time greats, without a doubt. If the Mets had unlimited resources, signing Wright - even if he's overpaid - would ensure that one of the team's greats would spend, at the very least, the remainder of his productive years with the team. But this isn't about sentiment - it's about what will build the Mets into a winning team in the years to come.
This is where things, in my view, get cloudier. Wright's production over the past few years has been, frankly, all over the map. He's never been a bad player, to be sure, but he hasn't had the Hall of Fame career that we had hoped for. The causes have been dissected time and again - from various injuries to the walls to a changed approach at the plate - but Wright's production declined at the very age hitters are supposed to peak, from 8.9 fWAR in 2007 to a low of 1.9 fWAR in an injury-shortened 2011. This year, he returned to form in the first half and his 6.2 fWAR still put him at the top of the National League, tied with Ryan Braun and just ahead of Andrew McCutchen. But even in the year of his renaissance, Wright has struggled in the second half, OPSing only .771 since the All-Star Break, compared with 1.004 beforehand. Even taking into account some BABIP-based regression that was bound to occur, that's a pretty stark difference. Moreover, he's showing signs of returning to old habits - striking out once every 4.31 PAs in the second half compared to once every 7.6 in the first 4.31 in second.
The point of this isn't to denigrate what has been a great season for Wright. The point is to argue that it's far from clear that he will be worth his next contract. Wright will be 30 years old this December, and 31 at the expiration of his current contract. The odds are that his production will decline over the course of his new contract. His dropoff in the 2nd half this year only makes things murkier. While it doesn't detract from his amazing production in the first half, it certainly gives one cause to question its sustainability over the course of an extension. And if the Mets' resources are finite - which they likely will be even after the Bay/Santana contracts expire - they will need to make hard choices about how to spend their money.
And that leads me to the question of what to do with Wright over the long haul. Notwithstanding the Mets' tailspin in the second half, they hopefully have some good pieces going forward in certain areas. Ruben Tejada should be a mainstay at short. The starting pitching, in particular, looks to be a solid foundation. Even without R.A. Dickey - whose own long-term status is up in the air, and even with all caveats about young pitchers - the Mets have an enviable crop of young pitchers, including Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia, Collin McHugh, and, if they develop, guys like Familia and, further down the line, Fulmer, Montero, Tapia, etc. You can never have enough pitching, but the Mets are doing a good job developing prospects in that area.
Conversely, the hitting scene is much, much bleaker. When it comes to hitting prospects, with the notable exception of Brandon Nimmo, who's a long way from Citi Field (except geographically), many of the Mets' more promising young hitters, particularly in the power department, are infielders, including arguably their top near-MLB-ready hitting prospect right now, Wilmer Flores, as well as rawer players like Aderlin Rodriguez or Jefry Marte. If you include fringier guys like, say, Zach Lutz (although it's hard to call him a real prospect given his injury history), the list arguably gets more IF-heavy.
So here's the serious question - if a few months of Carlos Beltran can net Zack Wheeler, what could a year of David Wright net? In particular, could it net at least 2 bona finde hitting prospects, one of whom is a legitimate outfielder? And if so, would it make more sense for the Mets to make such a trade, and use the money that would otherwise be spent on Wright to make cheaper and less-risky signings? I'm just throwing a name out there, with absolutely no idea as to his availability or antying like that - but if the Mets could acquire someone like Oscar Taveras as the centerpiece of a Wright package, wouldn't it be worth thinking about?
I know that trading Wright would be a bitter pill for the fanbase to swallow, myself included. But the past few years have taught us that the combination of (1) a finite payroll and (2) most of that payroll tied up in a few players in their decline years is a recipe for disaster. Given Wright's up-and-down history - including even this year when comparing his first and second halves - I think that a long-term extension for him, while it would initially please the fanbase, could be extremely risky, particularly if it prevents the team from spending money in other areas of need. Moreover, contrary to the normal "hometown discount," I think that there is a decent chance the Mets might even have to over-pay for Wright to prevent him from hitting the FA market. If that's the case, I think it weighs even more heavily in favor exploring a trade.
But enough from me. What say you? Should I be tarred and feathered for even suggesting it? Do I make any good points at all? Is the state of the Mets today directly tied to their not trusting Ruben Gotay and Damion Easley to be a productive 2B platoon in 2007? Let's hear it.
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