Around the NL East: David Wright’s Next Contract


Open speculation about the next contract that David Wright signs can be traced at least back to last year, when the question was centered on which of the New York Mets star infielders would be the one to go – Wright or Jose Reyes? We know at this point how the story ends – Reyes reaches free agency, receives a significant offer to remain a Met, accepts a slightly bigger offer by a division rival, and leaves town with the Mets left standing without a shortstop.

Wright is earning $15 Million this season and the Mets hold an option for 2013 valued at $16 Million. Yet, while he will not reach free agency until after next season there does appear to be some logic in starting some discussions now about what a new contract might need to look like in order to keep Wright a Met for the long haul, especially given the third baseman’s hot start to the 2012 season.

The Mets have continued to appear in rumors over the past few weeks, some even suggesting that the team is determined to complete a new deal before the summer months end. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested late last week that Wright could seek an 8 year deal in the neighborhood of $150 Million – using the recent extensions signed by Troy Tulowitski, Joey Votto, and Matt Kemp as comparables in negotiations.

On its surface, the numbers thrown out there by Rosenthal appear at first glance to be a little on the higher side. Sure, Wright has been a remarkably consistent part of the Mets lineup since he became a regular in it during the 2005 season, never batting below .283 or playing in fewer than 144 games. Injury cut his 2011 campaign short, limiting the five-time All Star to just 102 games and a .254/.345/.427 batting line.

But 2012 has been a big bounceback season for Wright thus far. Through 49 games he is batting .369/.472/.591 in 212 plate appearances. His batting average is the second highest in the National League, trailing only Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz (.371). Wright has already started to approach last year’s totals for hits, doubles, triples, RBI, and walks and we’re not even at the midway point to the season yet.

With production continued along these lines there would certainly be some justification for locking him up to a long term contract. Consider Wright’s track record of being a model citizen in a major market and there is some further justification for keeping him around. He will be 30 this December and has really only has some health concerns when you look at his recent injury history (back trouble that kept him out about 2 months in 2011).

Wright is a .303/.384/.511 hitter with 189 HR and 757 RBI in 4,995 plate appearances (through games as of Saturday) for his career. For perspective, in a season’s worth fewer games, Washington’s own Ryan Zimmerman holds a career line of .286/.353/.473 in 3,834 plate appearances with 130 HR and 516 RBI. Both have been exemplary characters while becoming the face of their respective franchises. Both play solid defense at third base, a position short on quality stars across the league. Both actually played on the same AAU team while growing up in Northern Virginia.

Prior to the season Zimmerman signed an extension with the Nationals, valued at 6 years and $100 Million. Coupled with the option the team already held for next season, that locked Zimmerman up for the next 7 seasons at a total value of $114 Million. That’s an average annual value of $16.28 Million per season.

Wright could conceivably command as much on the open market but is he worth much more than $16.28 Million per season?  Rosenthal’s estimate ($150 Million over 8 years) works out to an AAV of $18.25 Million per year, which isn’t that much more than the AAV of Zimmerman’s contract. An argument could be made that with the few differences between the two players (Wright has a slightly less spotty injury history and has historically hit for a higher average more consistently than Zimmerman) a difference of nearly $2 Million per season is more than justified if that were the deal the Mets wanted to offer Wright.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson has been quoted in recent weeks as stating that he’d like to bring an extension offer to Wright within the coming months. The sentiment has been supported by Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon as well, though neither seem to indicate any need to rush a deal to completion. While Wright has predominantly remained quiet on the subject, he has expressed a public desire in recent days to avoid negotiations during the season, according to MLBTR. Considering the way the Mets have been playing of late, one can’t fault Wright for wanting the attention to be on the team and not solely on him.

There will be speculation, particularly in the coming weeks as the July trade deadline starts to approach, regarding whether or not the Mets can get a deal with Wright completed or will they choose to trade the face of their franchise sooner rather than later to maximize their return? There is a clause in the contract that allows Wright to void the 2013 option if he is traded, meaning a team that acquires him might only have his services through the end of this season, not next.

A trade seems unlikely at this point – the Mets are playing well after an offseason full of bad publicity and some people have started to move on from solely focusing on their financial woes – but one has to wonder just how capable the organization is of making a deal to keep Wright in New York. Ultimately it would seem safe to presume that a deal will eventually get done between the two sides as his value to the Mets may be higher than the value he could provide any other organization. If he can remain healthy an 8 year, $150 Million contract (I’d guess this would replace the option for 2013 rather than start the following season) could prove to be a solid agreement for both sides.

For what it’s worth, Wright is a career .299/.380/.480 hitter against the Nationals in his career, adding 14 HR and 76 RBI in 132 games (582 plate appearances). If he and Zimmerman didn’t play the same position then there would be a reasonable argument to suggest the two could team up once again with the Nationals. Logistically such a signing wouldn’t work in Washington, however.