Mets take risks with contract stalemates
The standoff between the New York Mets and third baseman David Wright continues. And for the team, the risk is only becoming greater.
The Mets offered Wright a six-year, $100 million contract extension on Monday, according to major-league sources.
It is an offer that Wright is certain to refuse.
Wright, who is under contract for $16 million in 2013, prefers a deal of seven years or longer, sources say.
The Mets’ proposal offered Wright only a slight raise, and matched the terms of the Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria extensions, the latter of which was announced on Monday.
Wright, who turns 30 on Dec. 20, is older than Zimmerman, 28, and Longoria, 27, but perhaps the safest long-term bet.
Longoria is the best offensive player according to OPS-plus, a statistic that adjusts a hitter’s OPS to his league and ballpark. But he has appeared in more than 133 games in only two of his five seasons.
Wright’s career OPS-plus is nearly as good as Longoria’s, and he has averaged 149 games in his eight full seasons. Zimmerman’s career OPS-plus is the lowest of the three, and he has not been as durable as Wright.
A six-year extension would take Wright through 2019, same as Zimmerman. Longoria, on the other hand, is now under contract through ’22 — and with one of the game’s lowest-revenue clubs.
The Mets, playing in New York, should be at the opposite end of the financial spectrum.
The team, with its latest proposal to Wright, is taking a more aggressive approach than it did last off-season with shortstop Jose Reyes, who said that he never received an offer from the club after signing a free-agent contract with the Miami Marlins.
Club officials say their off-season priority is to sign both Wright and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to extensions. But the winter meetings are next week in Nashville, and the team is making little progress on either front, sources say.
A trade of one or both veterans is possible, but Dickey also is signed for only one more year, at a salary of $5 million. Players entering the final year of contracts generally yield less than full value in trades, rival executives say. The Mets would gain little more than salary relief from such deals, unless they included cash to get better prospects.
Another option for the Mets would be to grant potential trade partners windows to extend Wright and/or Dickey, knowing that teams would make more tempting proposals if they were assured of keeping their desired player long-term.
Such windows, though, might only complicate the negotiations, particularly if the trades became public and the teams were unable to reach agreements with the players.
Then there is the Mets’ public-relations challenge.
A trade of Wright would create the possibility that the team’s homegrown star could appear in the July 16 All-Star Game at Citi Field wearing another club’s uniform.
To avoid such a scenario, the Mets could keep both Wright and Dickey into next season, continue trying to sign them to extensions and then — if the talks failed — trade them after the All-Star Game but before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Such a strategy, however, would further depress the trade values of both players; teams are less willing to trade elite prospects because of a new rule that prevents them from receiving a high draft pick if they acquire a potential free agent in the middle of a season and he then signs with another club.
But back to the central issue.
The Mets’ stalemates with Wright and Dickey raise questions about the team’s willingness to add to its payroll, which has dropped from $149.4 million at the start of 2009 to the $94.3 million at the start of last season.
Even if the Mets kept both Wright and Dickey, they would need to add other players to contend in one of the game’s most competitive divisions, the NL East.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson said recently that the team would need to gain “a little more clarity” on their talks with Wright and Dickey between Thanksgiving and the winter meetings.
The meetings start Monday. And right now, both situations are far from clear.