David Wright, the Met who stayed
The New York Mets and David Wright agreed to an eight-year, $138 million contract that should keep him a Met through 2020.
The deal tells us very little about the near-term direction of the Mets, in terms of what the rest of the team might look like. But the deal by itself counts as an enormous victory for a beleaguered fan base.
David Wright will be here. (We will pretend the window to trade him, which extends into 2014 unless the new deal includes a no-trade clause, does not exist. It is almost certainly academic, either way.)
It's a development that transcends the ever more depressing news about the state of the club's finances, and its effects on the team.
Let's say Fred Wilpon and his partners eventually run out of capital. That's not a far-fetched scenario: They've yet to finalize a refinancing of their team debt, due in 2014, or SNY debt, due in 2015. If they do manage to further borrow against SNY, it is their final source of capital, and will likely affect their only current source of profit.
But if the day comes when Wilpon and his partners are forced to sell, and a new, presumably well-capitalized owner takes over, David Wright will be there to build around.
The Mets aren't likely to be good in 2013 with Wright, and they certainly weren't likely to contend without Wright in 2013, though the reports that Wright's $16 million 2013 option is ripped up, with the value of it moved into the overall deal, making it theoretically possible that part of that $16 million could be used toward improving the 2013 team. This was still a 74-win team in 2012 with Wright and R.A. Dickey performing at top levels. And Dickey may not be a Met for much longer.
As long as the team is hamstrung financially, they simply aren't likely to be in a place that allows them to build a contender. As long as every bit of new revenue is split, unevenly, between building a baseball team and making sure the current Mets ownership lives to fight another day, the Mets aren't a good bet to compete in a sport flush with television money being used to improve other baseball teams. There's no more limiting of competition to large markets; we live in a time when the Pirates can outbid the Yankees for a catcher.
But while this struggle plays out, the Mets will employ a third baseman who is the envy of most teams, one of the most valuable players in the National League in 2012, and a homegrown fan favorite.
Wright has already had a career that puts him solidly on an inner-circle Hall of Fame track. He's not just great by Mets standards, an Eddie Kranepool legend. He's a real superstar. 136 players have managed to play at least 1,000 games in the major leagues, at least half coming at third base. Of those players, Wright's career O.P.S.+ of 135 ranks fifth, trailing only Al Rosen, a great player whose career was cut short by back injuries, and three of the consensus best-ever at the position: Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews and Chipper Jones. Wright is tied with George Brett and Home Run Baker, a pair of Hall of Famers.
That Wright stayed, when so many Mets left, at a time when it seemed like anything good that the Mets had, from Jose Reyes to Carlos Beltran to R.A. Dickey to even younger players like Ike Davis and Jon Niese, could disappear tomorrow to the highest bidder, will make him a beloved New York Met long after he retires.
His loyalty is all the more striking given the eventual structure of the payout--some deferred money, and a backloaded contract. Though he may not receive much credit from the public for accepting a deal at significantly less true value than he'd earn for a comparable contract if were traded next week or hit free agency next winter, he should.
Eight years is a long, long time in baseball. Consider how long it feels, and what has happened to the Mets, since the day Bernie Madoff's fraud was discovered in December 2008, and the source of ownership's ability to field a winning team disappeared overnight. Feels like forever, right?
That was four years ago. David Wright just agreed to an extension for twice as long.
That's eight years to put a winning team around Wright, one way or another, one owner or another. Everyone else might stay or go. R.A. Dickey could be gone tomorrow. Jose Reyes is in another country, and playoff games at Citi Field look to be a world away.
But David Wright is here to stay.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The team needs a catcher, now that Russell Martin has agreed to a two-year deal with the Pirates.
Mariano Rivera, however, will return on a one-year deal.
Amar'e Stoudemire hopes to be home for Christmas.
The Nets will be without Brook Lopez for the next several games, but the foot that cost him all but five games last year isn't broken.
Rutgers had a 14-3 lead at home over Louisville, with a first-time berth in a big-time bowl game just a few quarters away. But then Rutgers decided to be Rutgers.
St. John's crushed South Carolina.
Seton Hall gave the ball away 26 times in a 72-67 loss to L.S.U.