12:11 pm Nov. 28, 2012
The Mets have exceeded expectations in one respect: this off-season, which because of the ownership group's financial contraints was supposed to be an uneventful one, hasn't been.
Sure, nothing definitive has actually happened yet, but the team's slightly public negotiations with David Wright have already turned into a very public drama.
Ken Rosenthal reported, around 7 A.M. yesterday, that the Mets had offered Wright six years, $100 million on Monday, which is almost certainly well shy of what he'd get on the free agent market next season. Accordingly, Rosenthal described the offer as "an offer that Wright is certain to refuse."
Around 10 A.M., Andy Martino of the Daily News reported that the Mets had offered Wright a seven-year deal "well in excess of $100 million".
Other reports followed, including another from Rosenthal, updating the contract offer to reflect a total additional value of between $119 and $129 million over seven years.
While that total value, adding in Wright's $16 million 2013 option, is still shy of, for instance, the eight years, $160 million many observers believe he could get as a free agent next fall, it is pretty close to what he'd expect, not even taking into account the Mets' willingness to take on the long-term burden one year early.
In short, the report described a perfectly reasonable, nine-figure market-value offer from the New York Mets.
That impression, of a team trying seriously to lock in its franchise player, lasted for about two hours. Just after 6 P.M., Wright and his agents took the unusual step of publicly denying the reports that had been surfacing all day, saying that in fact the two sides were not close a deal.
Consider what Wright going public with denials, following a clear, sustained effort from the team to publicly frame negotiations earlier in the day, can possibly mean.
If we assume that both sides were acting in a logical way reflecting their own best interests (not always a fair assumption), the Mets wouldn't have gone public with negotiations that Wright clearly wanted kept private. If momentum was tilting toward a deal, there would be zero reason to leak the numbers and attempt to bring public pressure on Wright to sign. A bad sign.
Then there's Wright's response, an equally bad sign. If Wright believed that the Mets had presented their best offer, and it fell short, or he has simply decided New York is not the place he intends to be, long-term, then he sees what's coming (the public-relations smear campaign the Mets performed on his teammates many, many times before) and is getting out in front of it.
If this is simply Wright preferring to hit the free agent market no matter what, it's not a problem any team could fix. Nor could Wright be blamed for doing so, for monetary reasons. Salaries, thanks in large part to television, look to be skyrocketing, and Wright will be the best player on next winter's market with the possible exception of Robinson Cano.
But as the New York Post reported this morning, the discrepancy between what the Mets want to pay Wright and what Wright wants to earn appears to be less a disagreement over what is fair total value and more to do with how much money the Mets can defer in paying Wright.
The irony in this could scarcely be thicker.
For years and years, the Wilpon ownership group deferred money in contracts, most famously to Bobby Bonilla, but also to players such as Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana. The reason was a very simple one: Bernie Madoff. How the plan always worked was, the Mets took the deferred money, invested in with Madoff, made more on the other side, and thus could offer the player more in deferral while the Mets skimmed some off the top. Everybody wins!
But now, with Madoff a memory and the huge debt load the Mets face very much alive, deferral needs to happen for a different reason: to allow the Mets the possibility of being able to afford a player like Wright, and a semi-plausible baseball team.
Not retaining Wright, if in fact it turns out he really wants to stay, would be tantamount to an acknowledgement from the Wilpon ownership group that it cannot fulfill the basic requirements of ownership in Major League Baseball, despite the television money they make here in the nation's largest market.
The winter meetings, which is where an unsigned Wright would likely be shopped in a trade, start in five days.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Andy Pettitte will earn at least $10 million to pitch in 2013.
Apparently, the Yankees are interested in Shane Victorino.
Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Knicks will again be without Jason Kidd.
Another day, another Big East defection: Louisville to the A.C.C.