11:02 am Nov. 2, 20122
David Wright's talks with the New York Mets about a contract extension have entered the "fog of war" stage.
Talks were supposed to happen with great urgency last month, ahead of the Mets picking up Wright's 2013 option just after the World Series. That didn't happen, for whatever reason.
This week, the Daily News reported that talks had intensified.
And now, multiple reports that the talks were "stuck in neutral".
ESPN's Jim Bowden compared the attitude of the Mets' front office to the team's posture during the Jose Reyes negotiations, which, given the team's finances at the time, were only conducted for show anyway.
At the moment, the team is reportedly attempting to further leverage SNY to pay for things like operating expenses. So it could well be the case that the Mets are simply making a display of trying to re-sign Wright, to mask their inability to retain yet another indispensible player.
Bowden pointed out a number of trades the Mets could make if they elect to deal Wright, while echoing an earlier consensus around baseball that the team will find a way to keep him.
The proposed trades bring the current on-the-field state of the team into sharp relief. As valuable as Wright is, the Mets need other talent now, and later. Losing him would be devastating, but they're not going anywhere with the surrounding cast they've got at the moment.
Bowden suggests the Mets could trade Wright to the Boston Red Sox for third baseman Will Middlebrooks and a top-flight starting pitcher, such as Allen Webster or Matt Barnes. There would be considerable upside to a deal like this.
Middlebrooks, who debuted in 2012, put up extremely similar numbers to David Wright's 2004 debut, from the O.P.S.+ (120 for Middlebrooks, 119 for Wright) to the way he got there (slash line of .288/.325/.509, to Wright's .293/.332/.525). Middlebrooks was two years older when he did this than Wright was, but the chances of Middlebrooks emulating Wright's peak in the coming years are comparable to Wright's chances of emulating them through what are likely to be his decline years.
If they can add Barnes as well, a prospect on par with any they have, Zack Wheeler included, the Mets would have a hard time saying no to the deal.
The rest of Bowden's propsed deals are less inspiring. The best of the bunch is probably his suggestion of "a Mike Olt, Derek Holland and Craig Gentry type of deal" with the Texas Rangers. Olt is a power bat who could slot in at third base, though the Mets would be trading off some defense, and Olt struggled in his first exposure to major league pitching, suggesting that 2013 would suffer a large dropoff. Holland would be a strong piece to add to the starting rotation, perhaps to replace R.A. Dickey if he is traded, while signed to a team-friendly long-term deal (essentially, the model for the Jon Niese contract). And Craig Gentry is capable of playing center field and hitting enough to stay there, something that cannot be said of anyone on or close to ready in the Mets' organization right now.
Still, that trade has a feel of exchanging a dollar for three quarters, as do the other potential trades. Getting Peter Bourjos and C.J. Cron from the Angels is an example of the Angels giving up two players from their excess talent for the best player on the Mets. Bourjos is a suspect everyday bat, though an astonishing defender in center field, made irrelevant by the emergence of Mike Trout. And Cron has epic power, but has displayed no ability to control the strike zone, turns 23 in January, hasn't palyed a game above single-A, and plays first base, limiting his potential value further. No thanks.
Ditto for a deal with the Diamondbacks for one of their admittedly strong crop of pitching prospects and Adam Eaton, a limited-upside center fielder, or with the Royals for Mike Moustakas, a talented third baseman who struggled in his rookie season, and could, if everything breaks right, be almost as good as David Wright.
The twin realities facing this Mets team, however, are that they need to keep people interested in 2013, and they need to add to their overall talent base. Simply signing R.A. Dickey and David Wright to long-term extensions freezes the roster in place for next season. The Mets will have a pair of marketable, even beloved stars. But they went 74-88 with both of those players having perhaps the best seasons they will ever have.
Dealing both Wright and Dickey, though, on the heels of letting Jose Reyes go, could crater the franchise. Just how many games will that same roster win without Wright and Dickey? And just how willing will other teams be to trade the Mets young, cost-controlled replacements for Wright and Dickey, when they can just, you know, keep the younger, cheaper versions of them both?
It is an extremely difficult position, a result of the financial problems that have prompted the Mets to strip the major league team of its talent without finding young players who can replace a Jose Reyes or a Carlos Beltran.
The best the Mets can do with Wright and Dickey, barring an offer like a Middlebrooks/Barnes combo from the Red Sox, is to sign them long-term. That's probably what people around baseball are counting on when they assume the Mets will come through and do what is obviously right for the team.
Not a great assumption, though.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The season finally starts Friday night, with the Knicks hosting the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden.
Because of the hurricane, the Nets will be the final team to open their season, Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors.
Their star point guard, Deron Williams, will be managing a bone spur in his ankle all season.