For the past several weeks, a colleague at work had been asking me, on an almost daily basis, if there was any news on the David Wright contract talks. The inflection in his voice and the frequency at which he asked me might have led the casual observer to believe that I might have been in the room with Alderson and Wright's handlers getting all the inside information on the deal. Obviously, I'm not so well connected, and I'm often skeptical of rumors, so I could only pass on whatever information I knew, which usually wasn't much more than "(shrug) They're talking."
"But...But...You're the author of The Ballclub! You're supposed to know these things!"
No, not so much. I'm so out of the loop I don't even get invited to the Blogger forums the Mets hold from time to time. I'm only able to glean as much as I can from Mike Francesa and Benigno and Roberts. So, for the most part, no news was no news. Until there was news earlier in the week about the Mets basically throwing the kitchen sink at David Wright in order to keep him in New York, with the Mets, and out of the hands of the trademongers, off the roster of a division rival, or, worse, another New York team. To that end, I met the news of the Wright signing this morning with, mostly, relief.
I also wasn't surprised that he signed the deal as it was. Perhaps Wright may have been slightly miffed at the way the money would be paid out, but, let's face it. 7 years and $122 million tacked on to the $16 mil he was already slated to make for 2013 is a nice chunk of change, pretty much as good or better than any offer he would have gotten on the open market. The Mets, clearly wary of driving more of their fan base over the edge after the non-action on Jose Reyes last year, made sure that this wouldn't happen again. The decision, then, was Wright's to make, and whether or not he felt that the Mets were the place he wanted to be for the remainder of his productive career. Sign the deal, and he would almost assuredly become the greatest Mets position player ever. Say no, and he'd basically be stamping his ticket out of town, and perhaps become a bit of a pariah, and yet another indignity on a franchise that has seen nothing but indignity for the past several years. But, logically, there was no way he could turn down this offer, right? His heart always said yes. Ultimately, his head came around.
The move with Wright was the correct one, much in the same vein that the Reyes non-move was the correct one, or at least that's how I see it. I can understand both sides of the argument. The downside to a long contract for Wright (and the current deal will expire in 2020, shortly before Wright turns 38), is that he'll probably underperform during the latter part of the deal. Mike Piazza underperformed during the last couple of years of his long contract. But such is the hazard of maintaining control of a star player past his prime. Wright had to be paid based on his resume, which has been excellent for his first 8.5 seasons. Obviously, he's had his issues over the years, and he was at his best when he was a cog amidst several stars rather than being The Guy. But that doesn't mean that having him is going to somehow bring the Mets down even further than they already were, even in the latter part of his career.
David Wright has never been the singular cause of the Mets struggles. Unlike Jose Reyes, there have never been major injury concerns (Wright's injury problems have generally been of a freak variety rather than something constantly troubling), or questions about his attitude and focus, or the presence of a solid replacement (Anyone who thinks Murphy would have been a good replacement for Wright is out of their mind, the Mets have nobody even close to Wright the way they had Tejada to replace Reyes) and he's probably the last person you'd see getting pulled from a game for not hustling. When I think about the Mets rebuilding, sure, there have been times I thought that Wright would be among those purged. He'd certainly bring back plenty in a trade. But what he could bring back wouldn't, ultimately, bring the Mets any closer to contention than they would be with him; the problems of the team run far deeper than something one trade would solve.
The money shouldn't be an issue either. With the Madoff issue supposedly done with, the Mets may now be able to start building their payroll up once again. Getting rid of Jason Bay was a nice bit of addition by subtraction, and once Santana comes off the books after 2013, things may finally begin to turn. At least, this has been the big scuttlebutt. It's possible to start off building with trial and error while waiting for the bad money to disappear. When time comes for the Mets to make their move and get serious about improving, there will be solid pieces in place, and they'll be led by Wright, not hindered by his presence. One need only look at the San Francisco Giants as a team that built from within and then struck when the iron was hot. Why, with the necessary improvements, could this not be the Mets in a few years (before you state the obvious, I am indeed abundantly aware of the many reasons why it can't)? You can say what you will about Alderson, but one thing he's not is an idiot. I trust his ability to make the right move, and I think that a more deliberate approach to rebuilding the Mets is probably the wise thing to do. By keeping Wright, Alderson has made sure of not creating a need where there wasn't one to begin with.
To wit, the Mets are still a ways from contention. Several experiments (Thole, Murphy, Duda, the entire Outfield, the entire Bullpen) have either not worked at all or are just barely passable. But there are also really good pieces (Ike, Tejada, Harvey, Niese) in place, and several others that could fall in once they ascend. David Wright, it's now assured, will be here to see it through as well. It's a start.
And that's not even beginning to consider the boost in morale this is for Mets fans.