I tell David Wright the Mets should give him a fat extension; he disagrees
The Mets should give homegrown star David Wright a new $100-million contract, even if nobody agrees with me -- not the team or even Wright himself.
NEW YORK -- The Mets should give their homegrown star third baseman David Wright a new contract now, just like the Nationals gave one this spring to Ryan Zimmerman, Wright's buddy and obvious comp (baseball parlance for comparable player), a new deal.
They are very similar players who were in exactly the same boat. Zimmerman, also a third baseman, had two years to go on his contract, and the Nationals gave him a $100-million, six-year extension. Wright, counting the 2013 club option for $16 million the Mets are sure to exercise, also has two years to go on his deal.
They are very much alike. If anything, I'd argue Wright is a little bit better (.890 career OPS to .831 for Zimmerman), and a bit more reliable in terms of health, too. Zimmerman, also a homegrown guy, was seen as an imperative sign by the Nationals. Wright should be viewed the same way. But for some reason he isn't. At least not at the moment.
This should be an obvious decision. But oddly enough, so far no one agrees with me. The Mets, who are taking a wait-and-see approach, apparently don't agree. At least not yet.
And get this: Neither does Wright.
"I'm happy with the contract I signed in 2006,'' Wright said. "That kind of business I leave to Seth and Sam (Levinson, his agents). They can handle it. But I'm going to steer clear. I'm trying to play baseball. Worrying about my contract is too much.''
It's pretty obvious Wright doesn't want to talk about a new contract. He says it's not up to him. He said it's not his place or his way. And frankly, he doesn't mind whatever it is that the Mets decide.
To me, this is another reason to give him a contract. Not only is a terrific and tough player, but he is a perfect employee. He is mature well beyond his 29 years.
As Wright pointed out, there's been "zero'' discussion about a new deal. That's the word he used. Zero. That means zero talk between himself and the Levinsons and zero talk between his agents and the Mets.
If the Mets have talked, it's only internally. And they have decided to wait. Following a year in which Wright had some injuries and didn't perform up to his usual standards, they are proceeding cautiously. Wright is fine with that. In fact, he seems to prefer it.
"When I signed the contract in 2006, Omar told me we had a 24-hour window, and if nothing gets done, that's it,'' Wright recalled. "It's hard to prepare for Barry Zito as it is. It's damn near impossible if I'm thinking about business.''
I was too polilte to point out that he should be able to hit the diminished Zito in his sleep (or even that anyone being asked about a contract situation should throw out the name of Zito, whose own $126-million deal is almost unmentionable). But I did mention to him that, given the choice between a couple knocks off Zito or a hundred mil in his pocket, he should opt for the latter.
Wright just laughed like I was talking a foreign language, which is the great thing about him. He truly isn't playing for the money. Nutty as it sounds, I think he'd really opt for the two knocks. Guys can say they aren't thinking about the money. but with him, you believe it's the truth.
"I've never thought about playing baseball while worrying about a contract,'' he said. "This is what I do for a living. But I'm not in it to make a demand for a contract.''
Wright mentioned how he saw what Jose Reyes went through, and while Reyes didn't publicly demand a contract, Wright saw it hurt Reyes that things didn't go how he had hoped with the Mets. Wright is making no demands, and saying he has no expectations.
As he repeated many times, it's not in his control. That is true. It's up to the Mets. And they should have enough information by now.
This is a guy who already is tied for the all-time club lead in RBIs with Darryl Strawberry, a guy who never makes an ounce of trouble and who begs to play hurt. When he sustained a concussion from being beaned on the head by an errant Matt Cain fastball, he wanted to play the next day (prudently, the Mets made him wait through a 15-day disabled list stay).
When he broke his pinky this year, he missed only a few games, then he hit a home run the very day he returned. He is batting a baseball-best .500 going into tonight's game against Zito and the San Francisco Giants and is the first player to reach base safely twice in his first nine games of the season since Mike Cameron, then of the Mariners, in 2002. With a hit and two walks, he made it 10 on Friday night.
But a new contract isn't about the production. As one high-ranking Mets official once told me, Wright is "our Jeter.''
Wright sets a great example, he mans one of the hardest positions to fill and provides power, the disappearing skill. He never complained publicly about the previously ridiculous dimensions at Citi Field, though they surely hurt him. Now that the park will play straight up, they should expect the old Wright back.
The right deal to offer is obviously out there since the Nationals set that bar. While that figure may be a bit generous for Zimmerman, it makes sense for Wright. If it has to be a few dollars more, that's fine, too. Wright might have been hurt some last year but he's had far less injury history than Zimmerman.
It's so obvious the Mets should do this even Nationals manager Davey Johnson, the ex-Mets manager, took the opportunity of Zimmerman's signing to say the Mets ought to lock up Wright. Mets people believe Zimmerman was overpaid at $100 million, and one Mets person said he was annoyed at Johnson for butting in where he doesn't belong.
Never mind that Davey was correct. Wright is better statistically than Zimmerman, if only slightly. He has 185 home runs, 733 RBIs and a .302 career batting average compared to 129, 505 and .288 for Zimmerman. Zimmerman is a bit better than Wright (or anyone else, for that matter) with the glove while Wright's been a little more consistent with the arm. One thing where you'd favor Zimmerman is age; at 27, he's two years younger than Wright.
I'd argue that the Mets should do it before the price goes up. With the new dimensions and his hot start, he might really take off this year. The Mets settled the Madoff situation equitably, they passed on Reyes and they have no good excuse not to give it a try with their franchise player.
Wright again demurs. "I've never been one to say that because Ryan Zimemrman gets this I should get this,'' Wright said. "This isn't a miorror. It's a business. The Washington Nationals and Ryan got on the same page.''
Wright is too polite to say it, but it's time the Mets at least opened that book.
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