By Mike Steffanos
Andy McCullough, the Mets beat writer for The Star-Ledger, had an interesting column Tuesday on the possibilities of the Mets trading David Wright. Well worth the read, if you haven't checked it out already.
I'm not a big fan of the notion promoted by some New York media types that advocated change for change's sake -- the "Mets need to change the core" argument. Moreover, I believe that Wright is the best all-around player the Mets have produced in my four decades of watching them. My preference would be for Wright to play his entire career as a New York Met.
On the other hand, I understand full well both sides of what McCullough lays out here:
[Wright] remains a franchise player under club control at a reasonable price through 2013. Which means at some point -- likely not in the immediate future -- general manager Sandy Alderson must make a choice.
To rebuild this franchise, one mired in financial difficulty, Alderson must explore all avenues. From the beginning, Alderson has contended that no players are untouchable.
Thus Wright represents a two-way resource. Alderson could build to contend with Wright as his centerpiece. Or he could flip Wright for an infusion of prospects to boost a lagging farm system.
Players like Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez all could be shopped at the trade deadline. But Wright carries the most value.
The Mets are in the process of making over their farm system. While I believe there is more talent there already than the team is generally given credit for, no one denies that the Mets need to improve both the quantity and quality of their prospects. If someone were to bowl them over with an offer for Wright, they have to consider it. They'd be foolish not to.
McCullough makes a comparison that I've seen in several places already -- Wright's value now compared to Mark Teixeira's when the Rangers traded the first baseman to Atlanta. Teixeira netted Texas Jarrod Saltalamacchia and 4 prospects: SS Elvis Andrus, closer Nefatli Feliz and pitcher Matt Harrison.
If the Mets could find someone as eager to land Wright as John Schuerholz was to obtain Teixeira, they certainly would have to consider making the deal. They're simply not in a position where they can afford not to take advantage of any opportunity to get this franchise pointed in the right direction.
Wright has lost some luster in the eyes of some Mets fans in recent years as his batting average and strikeout totals have passed each other heading in the wrong direction. Although he comes to play every day and plays the game hard, he doesn't have that hard edge of anger that we New York fans love to see. Because of both these factors Wright seems to have come symbolize the frustration we have with the current incarnation of the Metropolitans.
Even among many fans who don't buy into the whole "change the core" thing, Wright's up and down last couple of seasons combined with frustrations over how the club has failed to compete has made what was once unthinkable -- trading the face of the club -- a real consideration. But is it smart?
Wright is under reasonable contract for this season, next year and 2013. He'll be 30 in the final year of his contract, still fairly young. He'll make $14 million this year, $15 million next and $16 million in 2013. For the middle-of-the-order offensive production that Wright supplies, that's a reasonable paycheck these days.
It won't be easy to replace Wright's bat in the lineup when you finish rebuilding and are looking to seriously contend again. The improved play of the Mets this season since Jason Bay has returned has reinforced the importance of a deep lineup with strength in the 3-6 slots.
If the Mets are a real playoff contender in 2013 -- a reasonable goal -- they will need a David Wright or someone with similar production. If they have to buy that commodity on the open market, it will likely cost them more than the $16 million Wright will make. As teams like the Rockies and Brewers lock up their best players long term, what makes it to the market becomes more expensive all of the time. Moreover, we've seen with Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran that there's often an adjustment period for coming to New York.
Even if the Mets bring back a haul of prospects for Wright matching the Teixeira deal, the Mets would be lucky if one of the players obtained gave them production along the lines of what they could expect from Wright. Prospects are never a sure thing -- while Andrus and Feliz panned out for Texas, Saltalamacchia was the gem of the deal when it was made, and he's yet to fulfill that promise with a career .245/.312/.379 batting line in just under 1,000 major league AB.
So while I agree that Wright is a valuable trade asset that can bring back multiple prospects, I think there is an argument to be made for keeping Wright as an important lineup piece of the contender the Mets hope to build. Perhaps negotiate some sort of 3 or 4 year extension to keep him here for what can be expected to be productive years. Build the lineup around David and Ike Davis and then add in the other pieces around them. If you believe the Mets need an edgier personality as a team, this can be accomplished with the players you add to the mix.
Sandy Alderson and the rest of the brain trust have some work to do to improve this farm system. Any opportunity to do this should be explored -- including paying draft picks over slot when called for, aggressive international signings and leveraging current roster assets when appropriate. However, I'm simply not convinced that dealing the best player on the team -- still relatively young and under reasonable contract -- is the best solution to this problem.