David Wright, the $200-million player that could have been?

When the Mets flew David Wright to the Winter Meetings last year to finalize his eight-year, $138-million contract, they did so without assurances of what the deal would look like in the future. Injury and performance aside, it was impossible to predict how the market would shake out, and how Wright’s $138 million would stack up.

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A year later, it’s clear that the Mets inked Wright for far less than he could have made on the open market this winter, when he would have been a free agent for the first time in his career. Just look at some of the position player deals that have been done:

  • Ten years, $240 million from the Mariners for second baseman Robinson Cano
  • Seven years, $153 million from the Yankees for outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury
  • Five years, $85 million from the Yankees for catcher Brian McCann
  • Four years, $60 million from the Mets for outfielder Curtis Granderson

Though none of those players are terrific comps for Wright, they serve to demonstrate how much players are currently worth on the open market.

With that in mind, I spent some time at the Winter Meetings informally surveying a handful of executives and agents, asking them what Wright could have received as a free agent. The answers did not dip below $170 million, rising as high as $200 million.

One person suggested tacking $5 million per year onto Wright’s existing deal, resulting in an eight-year, $178-million pact. Another said that Wright probably would have been able to push for a 10-year deal, which would have taken him through his age-39 season. Two suits budgeted $200 million on the dot — a number that only five players in history have earned in a single contract: Alex Rodriguez (twice), Cano, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Prince Fielder. On more than one occasion, Wright’s squeaky-clean franchise cornerstone reputation came up as a potential negotiating platform.

Imagine those numbers in the context of the Mets’ rebuilding efforts. Even if Wright fell short of that $200 million mark, his $170+ million value might have forced the Mets to reconsider their commitment. Market factors alone could have transformed franchise history.

Wright knew he would be taking a discount to sign with the Mets a year before hitting free agency, but he still did it because he knew New York was where he wanted to be. (Recall that Wright shaped his deal like a bell curve to help the Mets retain present and future payroll flexibility.) He and the Mets are both happy things worked out the way they did.

But the rest of baseball was left wondering what Wright would have received on the open market had — like so many others — he chosen to play for the highest bidder.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

8 Comments

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he certainly would not be a Met right now if thats the case

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It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these salaries are going to bankrupt the sport eventually. There’s just so much you can raise ticket prices and if some pretty mediocre players (like Granderson) are getting what they’re getting, it’s a problem.

While you make a good point that none of the above players are comparable, there’s one big reason: Wright is a far superior player to all of them but Cano, although Wright is a better player than Cano. They have both played 1374 games in their careers, and while Wright owns an only slightly higher bWAR, the primary difference in their abilities is Wright being able to draw walks and get on-base, even if their OBP has been very similar the last two years. However, the main reason Cano has started to walk more has been that he doesn’t get pitches to hit with everyone out of the lineup for the Yankees. Wright, however, has shown on-base skills throughout his entire career, even during the days of Reyes, Beltran and Delgado around him. Here’s their triple slashlines and career totals:

Wright: .301/.382/.506- 345 doubles, 25 triples, 222 HR

Cano: .309/.355/.504- 375 doubles, 28 triples, 204 HR

They have relatively the same number of triples, Cano has hit 30 more doubles and Wright has 18 more homers. Also consider that Cano has 164 at-bats. Even though Wright has more plate appearances, Cano’s slight edge in at-bats allows those hit totals to climb a bit higher. Wright also has a career OPS+ of 137- Cano’s is 125.

In conclusion? If Wright wanted to test the free agent market, he likely would’ve found a $200 million contract with ease. I think his willingness to settle for what he took with the Mets ($138 million) shows his dedication to the Mets franchise. That says a lot about his commitment and loyalty to the team and the fanbase, and it’s why Wright is the face of the Mets, and will be for years to come. If Wright brings a championship to the New York Mets in his career, he will go down with the same prestige as Seaver, if he’s not already there, and may even surpass him. The longevity of his Mets career is unmatched, and I can’t wait to see how his career turns out. Let’s go Mets!

Personally, I don’t understand why all the hype? David Wright wasn’t that spectacular in 2013, at best he was average amongst the rest in the starting line-up. Marlon Byrd by far out performed David in 2013.

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