Wright offers Mets more than mere statistics
Reyes' return uncertain, club would be wise to keep its rock
As the offseason has unfolded and the free agency of shortstop Jose Reyes has loomed, the thought of the Mets trading third baseman David Wright has been considered by some a matter of when, not if.
Here's a crazy thought: What about keeping him?
What about not allowing one bad season to completely derail the sentiments for a player who has been the franchise's face, a model citizen and arguably its best player for the past six years? Heck, if that was the standard for Reyes, who has been slowed by leg injuries each of the last three seasons, wouldn't he already be a distant memory?
Truth is, if Reyes finds riches elsewhere -- possible, as the Marlins have reportedly made a six-year, $90 million offer that's expected to grow -- the Mets will need a franchise face, a player fans can identify with and someone to get people excited. That's a tall order for the ineffective Jason Bay and the young Ike Davis, and Johan Santana is coming off a left shoulder injury and may be past his prime.
Recent struggles aside, nobody is more qualified to be that man than Wright.
And when you consider his contract status and recent performance, the money the Mets will save and the players they'll acquire for dealing Wright may not even be worth letting him go.
Wright will be owed $15 million in 2012, then has a $16 million club option (with a $1 million buyout) for '13. But that club option only belongs to the Mets, so if Wright is dealt, he has the option to elect free agency, making him even less appealing.
Coming off a season in which he hit just .254 with 14 homers while being limited to 102 games because of a stress fracture in his lower back, Wright presents the Mets with two options if they want to move on from him.
1. Trade Wright now, which continues to seem unlikely because his stock has never been lower and the Mets aren't expected to get back anything close to his market value in return.
2. Wait until just before next July's non-waiver Trade Deadline in hopes that his stock improves with better numbers. At that point, though, the Mets would be saving only the prorated share of Wright's remaining 2012 salary and teams may not be willing to give up much for just a few months of his services.
Wright's track record -- he hit .306 and averaged 26 homers and 104 RBIs from 2005-10 -- coupled with the fences moving in at Citi Field and the urgency of a walk year means Wright could be due for a Reyes-like resurgence in 2012 if he stays healthy.
If that does occur -- and, yes, that's still a big "if" we're dealing with here -- is it really worth trading Wright for less than market value, just to shed a few prorated dollars off the payroll? Wouldn't the resulting dip in the standings and, accordingly, fan interest be even more crippling to the Mets' bottom line? And with that being the case, isn't it in the team's best interest to at least try to work out a more cost-effective extension, with or without Reyes on the roster?
Of course, Wright is a realist when it comes to these things. The New York way of life has hardened him in that way.
"You hire Sandy [Alderson] to make those tough decisions," said Wright, who hasn't been in touch with the Mets' general manager this offseason. "Sandy, besides, I guess, being the general manager of the New York Mets, he didn't sign me originally; he didn't draft me. So, I think he'll look at it strictly from a baseball standpoint and what's best for the organization, and we'll go from there.
"I think that's why he gets paid to make those decisions, because there are some tough decisions that have to be made. He's going through one right now with Jose. You can't fault him for doing what he thinks is best for this organization moving forward."
But it looks like the best thing for this organization moving forward -- both from a performance standpoint and a cost-effective standpoint -- is not to give up on Wright just yet. Alderson will do his due diligence with regard to the five-time All-Star third baseman, and considering where the franchise is at this moment, that's what he needs to do with everybody.
Is Wright still the type of player you build a franchise around? That's debatable. But considering his market value versus his franchise value, he may be a guy worth keeping around. The Mets can keep his current contract on their books for the 2012 season, patch some holes -- or simply re-sign Reyes -- and still shed payroll like they want to, with Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez now gone.
If Reyes departs, this franchise still needs that rock.
It's not out of the question to believe Wright can still be that guy.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.