Since Adam Wainwright's knee-buckling curve ball on Carlos Beltran to end the New York Mets' World Series bid in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series, the feel-good moments for the Amazins have been few and far between. In fact, in the past two-plus decades I've been a fan, there has been more reasons to be disappointed and heartbroken than proud and excited. Four postseason appearances, one of which I was a month old for, tell the whole story.
But Friday was a day to celebrate: The New York Mets reached an agreement on an extension with their franchise player, third baseman David Wright. Eight years, $140 million would seem to keep the face of the franchise in New York for the rest of his career, and I couldn't be happier. The Mets wouldn't be the Mets without Wright manning the hot corner.
Still, despite the news, there are a number of questions to address about the pact and what this means for the state of the franchise. Let's take a look at a few of them ...
1) Was this the right move? As much as I love Wright and I wanted to see him stay a Met for the duration, I can't help but think the Mets would've been better off trading him to accelerate their rebuild. With the dearth of position-player prospects and numerous holes to fill on the everyday roster, moving him seemed like an acceptable play, especially with the Wilpons still operating the Mets like they are the Twins. They could've easily gotten a few long-term young pieces on affordable deals, which would seem to be more important than ever for the front office.
2) What does this mean for the franchise? You're not broke if you just committed $138 million on one player. The Wilpons may not fully open their checkbooks like they used to just yet, but I think the overriding message this sends is that the Mets are serious about getting better, serious about retaining core players and serious about spending money to do so. Losing Wright would've been a public-relations nightmare, I get that. But this is also a move that brings respectability to a franchise sorely lacking it. After letting Jose Reyes walk without as much as a conversation, general manager Sandy Alderson and Co. showed what Wright means to the franchise and that they want him to be the lynchpin and captain as they slowly remake the roster. Having a revered leader like Wright can also only help the team's future free-agent pitches. Wright is to the Mets as Derek Jeter is to the Yankees. They carry a certain cache to the field, the locker room and to the organization and there's something to be said for that.
3) Was this an overpay? The Tampa Bay Rays just reached an agreement with third baseman Evan Longoria on a six-year, $100 million deal, essentially picking up his three options and keeping him there until 2022 when he's 36 years old. Altogether, it's worth 10 years, $136 million. The extension, which will kick in when he's 30, is valued at $16.7 million per season. Longoria has been more productive, but also more injury prone than Wright. The Nationals re-upped with their third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, last February on exactly the same extension as Longoria: six years, $100 million, which will kick in when he's 29. Wright has been the healthier and more productive player. His average annual value is $17.25, and he will play his final season at 37. Sports Illustrated's Cliff Corcoran also pointed out that Wright has averaged 28.8 (Baseball Reference) wins above replacement over his first eight seasons, an average of 3.6 per, one he's topped five times. Anything below $5 million per win is a solid deal in today's market. If Wright produces at that level for the next eight years, the Mets will have gotten a very fair deal, even by those standards.
4) What is next? Alderson said he wanted clarity with Wright and R.A. Dickey heading into the winter meetings, which begin Sunday. He's halfway there and reportedly also working to keep Dickey in New York as well. I have no problems with the Cy Young winner staying in town for a few more seasons, but I still think the Mets do themselves a disservice by not trying to capitalize while his value is at an all-time high. I think Alderson will do that in the coming days, and if offers from other teams aren't worth it, then Dickey will also be a Met for the rest of his career. The front office also needs to find able outfield bodies, a righty-hitting catcher and repair the bullpen, all within a pretty confined payroll. Doubtful they'll be able to address all of those needs at the winter meetings, but they'll at least gain some traction.