- Last Updated: 4:37 AM, December 1, 2012
- Posted: 1:56 AM, December 1, 2012
David Wright has signed his career away to the Mets now, undoubtedly the safe move financially and perhaps the smart move. Maybe Wright would have put together a spectacular walk year in 2013, but going forward without a long-term deal would have assumed significant risk that Wright, if he truly wanted to stay in Flushing, didn’t have to take.
But you don’t care much about that. What you’re wondering is what sort of baseball risk Wright assumed. Has he just locked himself into a career full of October vacations?
There’s scant reason to think that. For sure, in the wake of this ownership-fueled investment, Sandy Alderson and his lieutenants have plenty more work to do. But a fair amount of work already has been done, and with Wright now in the fold, you can see the seedlings of a team that absolutely can justify Wright’s love.
Understandably, many of the evaluations of this team’s baseball talent have been charged by the emotions that still surround the payroll cuts and the Mets’ pattern of starting seasons strong and then unraveling. Yet when you take a step back and check the inventory, you can see some of the pieces falling into place.
The long-term starting rotation has Jon Niese (signed to a team-friendly deal), Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee, and if R.A. Dickey truly is open to an extension that lasts only through 2015, then the Mets should go ahead and keep the 38-year-old knuckleballer, making them long-shot playoff contenders while Wright is at his best. Wright has agreed to structure his contract like a bell curve so that he’ll earn fewer dollars in the beginning and end of the deal. That should give the 2013 Mets some needed payroll flexibility.
Wright anchors an infield that also features shortstop Ruben Tejada and first baseman Ike Davis — Daniel Murphy is a respectable stopgap at second base — and that unit can get you into the playoffs.
That leaves the Mets with an outfield, a bullpen and a catching situation to fix. The outfield sticks out the most simply due to a lack of bodies at this juncture. According to an industry source, the Mets didn’t seriously pursue Denard Span, the modestly paid center fielder whom Minnesota traded to Washington on Thursday. Given that the Mets are still trying to improve their farm system, they’re not inclined to trade the sort of high-caliber prospect (pitcher Alex Meyer) the Nationals surrendered. The free agency route appears more likely, and there’s every indication the Mets will shop in the bargain aisle. Down the road, they’re leaning on top 2011 draft pick Brandon Nimmo to anchor the outfield.
Behind the plate, the Mets really like Kevin Plawecki, 21, one of the two players they drafted in 2012 with extra picks they received from Jose Reyes’ departure. Plawecki played just at short-season Class-A Brooklyn last season, so he’ll require more time. Someone else will have to help the big-league club next season.
The bullpen? You create a bullpen by throwing a bunch of quality arms against the wall and seeing who sticks. The Mets have failed to achieve that during the first two seasons of the Alderson/Terry Collins regime. In order to honor Wright’s commitment, they’ll have to rely upon their drafting, development and big-league coaching staff to create a culture in which late-inning leads are expected to be secured.
You can argue the Mets would have been better off trading Wright and Dickey and stockpiling prospects. Ownership opted against that, and Wright’s deal is not outrageous weighed against third basemen like Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman.
Wright shouldn’t pick out his parade gear for 2013. You can see, however, why he could sincerely think he could play in a World Series as a Met someday. Mets fans should hold out hope for the same while continuing their diligent scrutiny of team management.
This is hardly the last step for the Mets. It isn’t the first either, though.