Wright opens up on future with Mets
The third baseman wants to stay in New York, but questions about his future remain
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As a child, David Wright's favorite player was Cal Ripken, and only partly because of Ripken's Hall of Fame performance on the left side of the diamond for the Baltimore Orioles. Wright also admired Ripken for playing his entire 21-year career with one organization.
"That's what you kind of knew him for -- being an Oriole," Wright said Wednesday at the New York Mets' spring training complex, before joining manager Terry Collins for a round of golf. "I think that's cool for a number of reasons, but No. 1 because it doesn't happen very much anymore."
Wright is unsure whether he will duplicate Ripken's feat of remaining with one organization for his entire career. Wright is in the final guaranteed season of a six-year, $55 million extension he signed at age 23. The Mets hold a $16 million team option for 2013. The option would not transfer to a new team without Wright's consent if he is traded during the upcoming season. Wright could be a free agent as soon as next winter.
"The first extension was a little different because we were having success, and I think it was a good deal for both sides just in the fact I got the security and they got the years," Wright said. "But this go-around, it's a completely different front office, a completely different situation, where we haven't had that type of success. I have no idea what they're thinking, nor have I talked to them about it."
Wright long has maintained he wants to remain with the Mets for his entire career.
Yet when asked if the organization were to commit to a few-year rebuilding process, whether he would choose a better opportunity to win elsewhere or the tug of having a career-long affiliation with the Mets, Wright said: "That's a great question. Desperately I want to win. And I mean desperately. Ideally you win here. That's my goal. But that would be a very difficult decision -- I mean, an extremely difficult decision."
And with Jorge Posada's retirement from the New York Yankees and with Albert Pujols and Michael Cuddyer changing addresses for the 2012 season, Wright soon will rank 11th among active players in terms of major league games played while appearing for only one team. Wright's 1,106 games -- exclusively for the Mets -- trail only leader Derek Jeter (2,426 games with the Yankees) as well as Chipper Jones, Todd Helton, Ichiro Suzuki, Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, Jason Varitek, Brandon Inge, Brian Roberts and Chase Utley. Varitek remains a free agent and has yet to retire.
If the Mets did not face dire financial conditions, Wright's future with the organization likely would be a non-issue, one person who knows the third baseman suggested. If the organization had better financial health, the Mets probably would always pay him a premium for being the face of the franchise and never let him walk. But, the source noted, partly referring to the $386 million lawsuit facing Mets owners in the Bernard Madoff-related court case due to go to trial March 19, "these aren't normal circumstances."
Reyes, the organization's other homegrown star, already has walked without the Mets mustering a bid. (The Marlins might have ultimately blown the Mets away anyway, but the Mets had to be timid in their attempt to retain Reyes because the payroll is poised to shrink from $143 million last season to $91 million this year.)
"Of course seeing him in a Marlin uniform for the first time, you can't help but think about coming up with him and going through so many different situations together. Of course it gets in the back of your mind," Wright said.
For now, Wright noted, the ball is in the front office's court, since he is under the Mets' control for as much as two seasons. One person who would be involved in any future extension talks predicted there should be more clarity as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. At that point, there may be a resolution in the civil trial against owner Fred Wilpon and family. The direction of the Mets' season -- and the team's attendance, revenue and financial health -- should be clearer as well.
Meanwhile, in a weird twist, the Mets actually could get more for Wright if they do not trade him this summer.
Wright's contract allows him to void the 2013 team option if he is traded during the season. So Wright could be just a two-month rental if he is dealt on or before July 31.
Also, under the new collective bargaining agreement, if a team acquires a player in-season via trade and then loses him as a free agent after the year, it no longer gets draft picks as compensation. That CBA change, at least modestly, could reduce the price commanded when trading a player in-season, unless the player is willing to commit to a long-term extension and the acquiring team does not risk losing him.
If the Mets held on to Wright at the trade deadline, they could pick up his 2013 option after the World Series and then deal him next winter. In that scenario, the acquiring team would get Wright for a full season instead of two months, plus the right to offer him arbitration after the 2013 season and get draft picks if Wright walks.
Of course, given Wright's personal relationship with Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, under normal circumstances these trade scenarios would be foolish to consider. Somehow, an extension would get done at some point with the Mets.
"I guess we'll see," Wright said. "But I wouldn't want to be here unless the baseball people wanted me here. I think I have a very good relationship and friendship with Jeff. But I would never use that to my advantage to try to get a deal if the baseball people didn't think it was a good baseball deal. I would never with something like that go over the front office's head because I've got too much respect."
Still, Wright said about playing his entire career for one organization: "I feel like I'm a very loyal person. I think that whether it's friends that I had in high school that are still my friends today, whether it's the organization that drafted me and developed me, there's a sense of loyalty."
Wright is not getting younger. He will turn 30 this year, on Dec. 20.
"When I first got called up, the biggest thing people said was enjoy it because it flies by," he said. "It's incredible. It's unbelievable. I just can't believe that I'm turning 30 this year, and I can't believe I've been here as long as I have already. It flies by."
Wright's $7 million Flatiron bachelor pad in Manhattan, with a hot tub on the roof, is up for sale by the way. But Wright cautions not to draw conclusions from that about his future.
"There's no reason to read into it," Wright said. "I spend probably 95 percent of my time in Virginia now, and there's no need for the type of place that I had up in New York. It's a big place. It's a very nice place. I just didn't feel the need for that type of place when I spend two months here and spent literally 95 percent of my offseason in Virginia. I was a New York resident my first couple of years, then I changed my residency back to Virginia just because I was spending a lot more time down there. I put that on the market last year."