What is David Wright worth? Ryan Zimmerman's deal could offer some insight

Al Bello

While not expected to be anything too exciting, the New York Mets' offseason will be defined by what they end up doing with David Wright. General manager Sandy Alderson has made his intentions of keeping the third baseman clear, and there's already been reports that discussions with Wright's representatives have taken place. He is due $16 million in 2013, an option that is certain to be picked up by New York.

The big question that remains this offseason -- especially after the organization let Jose Reyes play out his final season and then let him walk -- is what Wright will command and whether the now fiscally-conscious Mets will anti-up and pay him market value. Speculation has already surfaced that negotiations will begin at $100 million. The New York Post's Joel Sherman on Saturday reported that after polling several team executives, the "terms that came up most often was about seven years at $127 million." That would make the extension's annual value slightly over $18 million. Essentially, because the Mets would pick up Wright's option, the total value of his contract would be eight years, $143 million. Is that too much? Should the Mets even entertain a contract like that?

As Sherman says, this is a pact that would make Wright, who has become the face of the franchise since entering the big leagues in 2004, the highest-paid Met in history, surpassing the $137.5 million Johan Santana received. The Mets would retain not only a superb player, but also all the intangibles: a great role model, clubhouse presence and someone who seems to genuinely want to stay in New York.

Third base has become one of the thinnest positions in the major leagues. There are literally only a handful of superstar-caliber players, with Wright included. One of the players who Wright has been linked to since he began hit the big leagues -- because they grew up playing together and now man the same position -- Ryan Zimmerman. The connections continue because Zimmerman just inked a six-year, $100 million extension ($16.67 million average annual value) last spring, making his total contract equal eight years, $126 million, and the executives Sherman spoke to believe topping Zimmerman's deal would be important to Wright and his agents.

Because of the similarities -- and most importantly: they're both considered top third baseman -- I've decided to compare the two players to give us some food for thought as to Wright's worth on the open market when using Zimmerman's deal as a benchmark. Below I've selected a variety of stats to see how the two stack up against each other.

David Wright Ryan Zimmerman
Games 1,262 990
Slash .301/.391/.492 .287/.353/.479
Homeruns/ISO 204/.205 153/.191
SB 166 30
wOBA .380 .353
WAR 47.0 34.6

First, it makes sense to point out that Wright will be 30 years old Dec. 20, while Zimmerman just turned 28 on Sept. 28. But while Wright may be older, he debuted about one year earlier than the Nationals' third baseman. Wright has played 272 more games and has 1,143 more at bats. Age certainly doesn't help in the durability department for Wright, but Zimmerman doesn't exactly have the best track record of being healthy, either, and that matters. Further, Wright rebounded last year to play 156 games after managing 102 in 2011. Zimmerman played in 145 last season.

Before we discuss the numbers in the chart, it's also worth noting that Zimmerman is considered the superior defender at third base, though he's had two down years based on his standards. Wright did make big strides in 2012, however, which is definitely a good sign.

  • No matter how you slice it, offensively, Wright is the better hitter. The Mets' third baseman has the the advantage in average, seeing it bounce back (.306) nicely in 2012 after a down, injury-plagued 2011. Wright's on-base percentage lead also doesn't come strictly from his average, either, as he has an 11.3 percent walk rate, compared to Zimmerman's 9.2 percent.
  • While Wright and Zimmerman are both considered to have plus-power for a third baseman, neither will be putting up massive homerun totals anytime soon. Wright has more based on the fact he's played more, but on a per-plate appearance basis, Wright has hit one every 26, while Zimmerman has left the park every 28 plate apperaances. Zimmerman had 25 longballs last year (to Wright's 21) and it wouldn't be surprising to see him reach 30 next season, though there's questions with Wright returning to that level because it's been two seasons (14, 21) where he hasn't shown that ability like earlier in his career. Still, on a raw-power perspective, Wright has a bit of an edge.
  • Weighted on-base percentage essentially explains how much value each player contributes per plate appearance, and Wright -- .380 to .353 -- clearly has the advantage there. In addition when measuring against league average and adjusting for ballpark factors, Wright's on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS+) trumps Zimmerman's, 135-121.
  • Despite his stolen-base efficiency (25 attempts, 15 steals) dropping off last year, New York's third baseman has is the speedier of the two, even if his thefts continue to slide as he ages.
  • Wins above replacement, which attempts to measure a player's total contributions (combining hitting, baserunning, fielding into one metric), shows Wright has the upper hand (even when boiling it down on a per-season basis) with a 12.4-win lead.
I know that nobody necessarily was arguing whether Wright is better than Zimmerman or vice versa, but I thought it would be a worthwhile endeavor to compare the two, because of how seemingly similar their careers have been. That Zimmerman just received a new contract also made it impossible to pass up. It's pretty evident, though, that Wright is the more complete player, thereby one who is worth more money. He may be older, but a contract that takes him until 37 for that money fair when comparing it to Zimmerman's (which will take him to 35.) Zimmerman's may be safer because of the "prime" years the Nationals are still paying for. No matter who extends Wright, it's hard to believe it won't be a slight overpayment. There's little chance he's worth that money by the end of the deal, especially when he's already beginning the contract on the wrong side of 30.

So, if you're the Mets (or more specifically the Wilpons and Alderson): What are you willing to give Wright? Or do you trade him?

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