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.
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.