Commentary

Is keeping David the Wright move?

It's unlikely the Mets can afford to keep both their stars. Should Wright stay?

Updated: October 26, 2011, 12:14 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

The likelihood of both David Wright and Jose Reyes continuing with the New York Mets in 2012 does not appear high.

After all, given the team's payroll constraints, and a desire not to concentrate too many of the dollars in a handful of players, many observers expect the Mets to be comfortably outbid for Reyes' services this offseason and for the shortstop to depart -- no matter how much Reyes enjoys playing in Flushing.

In one respect, losing Reyes would seem to all but cement Wright remaining a Met in 2012. After all, with the Mets starving for revenue, the double hit of losing Reyes and Wright -- even with the promise of building for a better future -- would lead to a more desolate Citi Field in 2012, a further revenue drain, and losses Fred Wilpon and family seemingly could not withstand.

But if the Mets had owners with deep enough pockets to absorb a short-term revenue shortfall, wouldn't the pure baseball move, assuming Reyes departs, be to trade Wright as well?

You can generously say the Mets' timetable for returning to division-title contention is 2013, when pitching prospects Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia might be legitimate major league contributors. But it is not until the following season that the Mets get true liberation from their weighty contracts, when Johan Santana is off the books and Jason Bay may be cleared off as well (assuming what may be a controversial vesting option based on plate appearances over the next couple of seasons does not kick in for 2014).

Too often in the past the Mets made decisions based on public perception. That's how they got into the predicament of their cumbersome contracts in the first place. Rather than make pure baseball decisions, they signed big-ticket players to appease the fan base and sell tickets with little consideration for the down-the-road ramifications of those payroll commitments.

The proven path to success instead is to build a sustained winner through the farm system and to use big-market financial might to never risk losing any desirable homegrown players as free agents.

David Wright
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesShould the Mets hang on to David Wright?

The new front office promises to be better in that respect. Yet in spring training, while explaining the decision to release Oliver Perez, general manager Sandy Alderson cited fan animosity toward the player as part of his rationale.

And in explaining to ESPNNewYork.com last month why the Mets would not just employ an inexpensive, stopgap closer in 2012 since it is probably a rebuilding year anyway, Alderson maintained: "There are no concessions from me."

Is that PR spin or reality?

Can the Mets even afford to admit to the reality of their predicament?

Wright is under the Mets' control for two more years. He is signed for $15 million for next season, with a team option for 2013 at $16 million (or a $1 million buyout).

Who is to say Wright would not just bolt after that contract expires anyway? Who is to say that after bearing the weight of being the face of a going-nowhere franchise for years, he doesn't just say, "Enough" and sign with a team closer to his native Virginia ... say as third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles? Or, dare we say, as Chipper Jones' successor in Atlanta?

Wright, by the way, is not getting any younger. He turns 29 on Dec. 20.

There are complications to trading him. The 2013 team option belongs only to the Mets. So if Wright were to be dealt, he would have the right to free agency next offseason, reducing what the Mets could yield in return in a trade.

Yet the Mets owe it to themselves to listen to any credible offer for Wright. Indications are they will do at least that -- listen. A team official tells the Post: "We'll explore Wright's market. I think considering where we are as an organization, it would be foolish not to at least look at it. However, I expect actually pulling the trigger is a long shot."

All this is not meant to diminish what Wright means to the organization on and off the field.

He grew up in Norfolk, Va., rooting for the Mets' Triple-A affiliate. He would always leave the minor league stadium with an autograph, even if it simply was the team's mascot, Rip Tide. It is still easy to vividly recall the pale look on his face, with running eye black, after the 2007 collapse. It most definitely stung him more, or at least gnawed at him longer, than many other players.

The bet is Wright is back with the Mets in 2012, benefiting from dimension changes at Citi Field that will include a reduction in the depth of the right-center wall that has been 415 feet from home plate. The Mets are unlikely to take the public-relations hit of trading Wright when all is said and done.

Still, if the Mets' motivation to keep Wright is to delude fans into believing the 2012 team will be something it is not, they'll be replicating the mistakes of past regimes. Which would, in itself, bode ill for the future.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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