Mets Rebuilding Must Begin with the Trading of David Wright
Authors Note: This article originally appeared at Mike Silva’s NYBaseballDigest.com
It’s difficult to look at a team who has managed to remain close to .500 all season despite getting nothing from your staff ace and less than 100 games to date from each your three best players, but that’s exactly the situation the New York Mets’ find themselves in as the 2011 season winds down and preparations for 2012 are on the drawing board.
An unamed Mets’ official recently told Joel Sherman of the New York Post that General Manager Sandy Alderson “recently established parameters when he insisted the team could be competitive in the $100 million-$110 million range, which simply reiterates one of the reasons he was hired in the first place: the belief he could do more with less.”
Unofficially and privately, the same source believes the $110 million figure will be the absolute ceiling, with the actual payroll being somewhere in the $90-$100 million range.
This ideal is all well and fine if you’re a young and up and coming team like the Kansas City Royals; your best players are part of a core group that is still years away from free agency and there are no dinosaur contracts on the major league roster weighing down your ability to do anything else.
This is not the case with the Mets, however. Even a guy with the proven pedigree and genius of Sandy Alderson would have to have a bit of Harry Houdini in him to pull off a $40 million dollar payroll reduction and keep the roster mostly intact and the team competitive.
The issues start at the top with Johan Santana and Jason Bay, who are scheduled to make a combined $42 million dollars in 2012 and who would both be untradeable even if they didn’t have full no trade privisions in their respective contracts.
Then there are the arbitration eligibles of which there are five and who combined to make just over ten million in 2011. The highest paid of that group, pitcher Mike Pelfrey, is almost certain to be offered arbitration, as is the lowest paid, pitcher Bobby Parnell. The others in the group, including outfielder Angel Pagan, likely won’t receive an offer and could either re-sign at a minimal increase or would be included in a trade. Pelfrey is almost certain to receive a substantial raise, even if Pagan and the others are not with New York next year, the savings would be minimal, maybe three million. The Mets also have nine players scheduled to hit free agency, most of whom are bottom of the roster guys who are easily replaceable. Not so the case with Jose Reyes, who is in the last year of a four year “team friendly” contract which paid him $11 million dollars this season.
Say what you want about his recent run of minor injuries, but the truth is since Reyes became a full time player in 2005 he’s failed to play 130 games or reach 610 plate appearances just once. Sounds pretty consistent to me. Oh, yeah, almost forgot. Reyes is three months removed from his 28th birthday. This is a guy who by all accounts is one of the most physically gifted all-around players in the game and is just entering his prime years. Can you imagine the damage control the Mets will have to endure if Reyes hits his prime with another team and reaches the postseason before the Mets do?
So, how can the Mets’ afford to bring back the two or three arbitration guys they like or bring in a handful of role players AND double Reyes’ salary for the next five years? Easy, they MUST trade David Wright‘s $15.2 million 2012 contract.
There are a handful of reasons why, individually some may not be as justifiable as another, but combined it’s pretty obvious there’s no choice.
1) Wright is seven months older than Reyes, but while Reyes is an elite player at a premium position, Wright is a corner infielder whose best tool is clearly his bat, and even at that it’s no longer of corner infield quality.
2) In 2009, the Mets received a total of 133 games played from stars Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Reyes. Coming off back to back .300/30/100 seasons, Wright was looked upon to be the on field team leader and he responded with his worst overall season.
3) Despite winning two Gold Gloves early in his career, Wright’s defense has regressed to the point where he is no longer in the conversation among the best in his position, and one could argue his defense has fallen further than his offense.
4) Wright could be a free agent after the 2012 and most certainly would be in line for a pay raise, whether deserved or not. He already makes more than Reyes, a new contract would pay him at least what Reyes would be in line to receive, somewhere in the $18-$20 million range.
Four guys making close to $80 million on a team with a $100 million budget?
5) Unlike Santana, Bay and Reyes, Wright is actually tradeable. If Reyes walks, the Mets get back two draft picks, as unguaranteed a return as there is. At least if the Mets’ move Wright they can expect to get in return at least one proven major league caliber player and conceivably a handful of minor league prospects, all of whom have higher expectations of a return than two amateur picks.
I’ll take this one step further.
Even if the Mets’ don’t re-sign Reyes, they should STILL trade Wright.
There’s no guarantee they’ll get anything out of Johan next year, the Mets’ certainly understand that and should head to Dallas in December with a starting pitcher on their Christmas list. The Mets’ could also use Wright as bait to replace Reyes, and still have enough in the coffers to afford a pitcher and an outfielder. Even if the Mets agree to pay half of Wright’s salary, that’s $7.5 million dollars they can give to Pelfrey and the other arb guys without taking a second hit on the payroll, or use the money to replace Pagan and provide rotation insurance. Three players for the price of one.
Sandy Alderson should get consideration for 2011 Executive of the Year, but his best job is yet to come.