Ask not what the Mets can do for David Wright
It's decision time for the New York Mets and David Wright.
Andy Martino reported in the Daily News Thursday morning that the Mets have presented "their best offer" to David Wright, and it would pay the third baseman a guaranteed $140 million over eight years. That's $16 million for 2013, an option already picked up by the Mets, along with $124 million over the following seven years.
The payout, purely based on money and years, is a bit shy of the eight years, $160 million many observers believe Wright would earn on the free agent market next season. But it also means Wright avoids the risk of playing out another season without getting anything new in return.
As presented to the media, it's a very fair offer.
This being the Mets, though, there's more to the story.
Martino also reported that the deal is backloaded. He didn't have specifics, but suggested that the structure of the contract was similar to that of Jose Reyes with his now-former team, the Miami Marlins.
Reyes, remember, signed a six-year, $106 million deal with the Marlins last winter, but earned just $10 million in each of the first two seasons, $16 million the third year, and $22 million in each of the final three years.
It is worth remembering that a dollar in hand today is worth more to Wright or anyone else than a dollar tomorrow. So the extent to which the contract is backloaded has a real effect on the total value of the package, particularly if Wright (accurately) believes he can earn the same contract from another team, paid out more evenly. $140 million is not $140 million, regardless of contract.
But there's more. Just as the Mets management used to do with their players in the years they were heavily invested in Bernie Madoff's schemes, they are apparently asking Wright to defer a portion of his contract payout. How much deferred money is unclear, but this, too, has a real impact on the total value of the deal.
For instance, the deferrals Johan Santana agreed to called for $5 million to be deferred each season for seven years, with 1.25 percent compound interest. So $5 million of his 2008 salary was withheld, earned interest, and gets paid out to Santana on June 30, 2015.
That may sound like a good deal for Santana, but it isn't. It brings the overall value of his contract down from $137.5 million to $123.1 million, a drop of more than 10 percent of the total value.
If the Mets are asking the same of Wright, along with the backloaded structuring of a deal, what appears to be a $140 million offer could easily be more akin to another team offering him $100 million, paid out without deferrals and evenly over the life of a contract.
Exactly how much the Mets are asking Wright to sacrifice is unknown without the particulars of the deferrals and contract structure. But it's not safe to assume the Mets have made a fair market deal without those particulars. And you can bet if those particulars do manifestly change the nature of the offer, the team won't leak them.
It was a six-year, $100 million deal, remember, that Ken Rosenthal described back on Monday as "an offer that Wright is certain to refuse."
What the Mets are doing, in terms of these negotiations and attendant leaks, makes sense above all as a public-relations strategy.
If Wright signs, they get an off-season trophy, something in short supply in Flushing in recent winters, and they get it at a better-than-market rate. If Wright refuses, they get to paint him as a greedy and disployal villain, earning themselves a pass at least with whatever portion of the fan base will buy that Wright, an exemplary team guy, is just being selfish here.
The "best offer" rhetoric seems to set the Mets up either finalize a deal with Wright for real, or to try to deal him at baseball's winter meetings, which begin Monday.
For now, the Mets and their fans wait, and hope that Wright, who has gamely provided the public face of this team for years while ownership insulted his talent and the front office pressured him to play hurt, will take one more for the team.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Pablo Prigioni played the part of Jason Kidd perfectly in a 102-88 win over the Bucks Wednesday.
Jerry Stackhouse's revival continued, while the Nets brawled with and then beat the Celtics, 95-83.