- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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Will Wright, a decade from now, be recognized in Queens with a similar ceremony?
In an exclusive interview with ESPNNewYork.com, Wright indicated he is unsure who will be his employer in 2014, much less at the end of his career.
"No idea," he said.
Wright wants his next contract to take him until the end of his career. He turns 30 on Dec. 20. The Mets have a $16 million option on Wright for next season, but his future -- even for 2013 -- remains unclear.
Wright has resolved to test free agency during the 2013-14 offseason if no extension can be consummated this winter. He does not want in-season dialogue.
Of course, if it becomes clear this offseason an extension cannot be reached, the Mets could trade Wright before Opening Day. Asked by the team's television network about the potential of trading Wright or knuckleballer R.A. Dickey ($5 million team option for 2013) this offseason if it becomes clear extension negotiations with either are far apart, general manager Sandy Alderson said, "I think that you have to constantly assess where you are and where they might be and make the best possible judgment."
Although he revered Cal Ripken Jr. while growing up in Norfolk, Va., in part because of the Hall of Famer's lifelong employment with one organization, Wright does not have an iron-clad resolution to remain a Met. He watched Jose Reyes depart as a free agent for the Miami Marlins last offseason, offering a dose of reality.
"I always thought Jose would be back, that it was just a lot to do about nothing," Wright said. "We've known each other since 2001. You're talking about playing around or with each other for 11 years. Yeah, of course it opens your eyes. It makes you realize in a lot of ways there is an ugly business side to this -- whether it's from the player's perspective or the team's perspective."
Wright has become the Mets' career leader in hits, RBIs, runs and walks this season. He also has only one playoff experience during his career, though. He wants the organization to demonstrate it has a plan for winning. And by that he means more than a review of prospects in the pipeline.
Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon and family slashed roughly $50 million from the payroll last winter, placing it at a middle-market level of about $95 million. If the Mets are to have a payroll in that range for the foreseeable future, with Wright occupying 20 to 25 percent of it, re-signing may not be attractive to him.
"I think we've demonstrated we have some talent in our minor leagues," Wright said. "Some of the young arms that have come up have been really impressive. But, at the same time, of course it's important that we can make a trade or sign a free agent and be able to spend some money. This is my philosophy on it. And that's why I'm going to sit down with these guys at some point and discuss it. Yeah, I'd like to know if it's going to be 'what you see is what you get' and we're going to base it solely on the minor leagues."
What if the current payroll constraints will be in place for a while?
"That would be something I'd have to think about, obviously," Wright said.
With Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon in an interview room at Citi Field three weeks ago waiting to present Jones with a gift recognizing his final visit to Queens, Jones noted to reporters the Braves never let him get to spring training of a free-agency year without having locked him up. Asked if that is how an organization should approach things, Wright made a distinction between himself and Jones -- and Jeter for that manner.
"I think it makes it a lot easier when obviously Chipper is in that situation and they win the division each year and have a chance to play for a World Series each year," Wright said. "Obviously we haven't experienced what they have."
On Thursday at Citi Field, as Dickey was winning his 20th game in the home finale, Wright said he never considered it could be his final home game in a Mets uniform. Wright indicated he would understand, though, if the organization decided its best option for long-term competitiveness would be to trade him and the 37-year-old Dickey this offseason for younger players with a longer horizon.
"Just like players do a lot of times what's best for them, organizations sometimes have to do what's best for them also," Wright said. "The ideal is you want to get a winning team on the field as quickly as possible. That's the front office's job to make those tough decisions. It would be tough for me personally. But, at the end of the day, I would understand."
Wright said he is not out for every last dime.
"What's the correct term? A mercenary," Wright said. "I've never considered myself that type of player where I'm going to go to wherever for the money. It's clichéd, but I'm not necessarily concerned about making every last dollar I can in this game. I'd rather be somewhere where I feel like I can win, somewhere where I feel like I can be happy and obviously comfortable. There's a lot of other factors other than flat-out who's going to pay you the most.
"It's a business, ultimately. It is. It's a business. And I don't blame any players for doing that. But I'm not sure if that's me."
Then, referring to Jones, Wright added: "Could he have probably made more money if he got to free agency? Probably. But that was the decision he made. And, like I said, it made the decision a lot easier because they were winning every year. You get to the point where you're a free agent, obviously it becomes a little different because you have a handful of teams rolling out the red carpet and things may look like a better situation."
"Obviously some of the financial things that ownership has gone through have affected the ability to spend," Wright continued, referring to Mets ownership. "I don't think there's any question. I don't know that for a fact, but from what I understand and read it somewhat affected it. ... Yeah, I vote for spending. But it's not my money. ... I don't know what their finances are. Obviously we have a certain philosophy and the Yankees have probably a little different philosophy. The Yankees' philosophy is probably a little more spending freely because they've had success and they've won."
Speaking of the Yankees, would Wright ever don pinstripes?
"I don't know," Wright said. "I've never thought about putting on a different uniform. Hopefully that never happens. But you never know what the future holds.
"I don't know what's going to happen to me."