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David Wright, who agreed to an eight-year contract with the New York Mets in early December, said he signed the extension mindful that reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey could be traded.
And while the All-Star third baseman acknowledges that the 2013 season minus Dickey could be an uphill battle for the Mets, he understands the ballclub faced formidable challenges anyway in the NL East given the strength of the Nationals, Braves and the Phillies.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson had visited Wright in the player's native Norfolk, Va., early in the offseason. The trip to persuade Wright to remain a Met long term included reviewing the organization's multiyear plan to restore the team into a contender.
Dickey, 38, was traded Monday to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package that included highly regarded catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud and Class A right-hander Noah Syndergaard.
"Going back to when Sandy came down here and we were having those honest conversations, I was well aware that not only was Sandy looking to better this team now, but that he also wanted to build a solid foundation for the future -- and the not-too-distant future," Wright told ESPNNewYork.com on Wednesday. "That definitely came up.
"I think it was important for us to get a little bit younger. I think it actually kind of works out well for both sides. You have Toronto, obviously, with their situation, and us with our vision. I spoke to R.A. earlier this morning, and he seems to be happy. The players we've gotten back, I've gotten a chance to speak to them. They're excited. And I think it fills needs for both sides."
Wright, who turns 30 on Thursday, has reached the postseason only once since debuting with the Mets in 2004. After coming within a game of reaching the World Series in 2006, the Mets suffered consecutive September collapses that have been followed by four straight losing seasons.
Even with that context, though, Wright insisted he is not impatient for a full win-now mentality.
"Of course it's difficult to see your Cy Young Award pitcher and a 20-game winner be traded," Wright said. "But I didn't sign to come back here for kind of a short-term-type, win-now-or-never-win-type approach. I'm going to be here for eight more years. And, this is my opinion: I would rather build and get that solid foundation where you get to the point where we can contend every year and have that solid base.
"Like I said, the trade fills needs for both sides. Of course, you're talking about losing a 20-game winner. They're very difficult to come by. And I know very little about the younger players we got back. But just from what I've read, you're talking about one of the best catching prospects in the game and one of the best pitching prospects in the game. So how can you not be excited about what the future holds with those two plus the [Matt] Harveys and [Zack] Wheelers? So I'm excited about what the future holds."
Alderson insisted the Mets are not "punting" the coming season with the subtraction of Dickey and a lack of activity courting higher-end free agents.
Wright nonetheless understands that next season will be an uphill battle for the Mets.
"You look around in our division and, of course, with or without R.A. you're talking about a very, very competitive and very, very tough division," Wright said. "Obviously you lose a 20-game winner and we understand that it's going to be a tremendous challenge. But it's the same thing as last year, when the expectations for us as a team from the outside were very low. We got off to a tremendous start and couldn't finish and really trailed off the second half.
"By no means is this conceding and looking to 2014 and beyond. We're going to go out there and expect to win next year. And, obviously, it sets us up nicely in the upcoming years with some of the young talent that we have."
The season before Alderson's hiring, in 2010, the Mets had a $147 million payroll. It since has been slashed below $100 million. The highest-priced external free agent to whom the Mets have committed so far in three offseasons under Alderson is closer Frank Francisco, who is midway through a two-year, $12 million deal.
Wright said he is unsure when the Mets ever will be in the market for a future offseason's equivalent of Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke. But Wright does express confidence that when the organization is a piece from a championship contender, the resources will be there to make a strong move.
"I'm not sure what kind of situation at this second we're in just with what payroll is or anything," Wright said. "You look, and just because you spend that type of money doesn't guarantee anything. I think what Sandy has done is obviously one of the first steps in solidifying -- and we're not talking many years down the road, we're talking about in the near future -- the young talent this organization is going to have. And then if we get to the point where we feel like we are that one or two pieces away, I think Sandy will have the flexibility to make a move.
"I'm not saying a Josh Hamilton-type move. I do think that talking to [chief operating officer] Jeff [Wilpon], talking to Sandy, there will be some financial flexibility soon, not too far off."