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Wright negotiations a test for Mets
On Tuesday afternoon, I received new information from a different source — that the Mets had offered Wright a seven-year extension at much bigger money.
The new deal would be worth between $135 million and $145 million over eight years, including Wright’s $16 million salary this season.
The present-day value, however, could be lower — the Mets’ past deals with left-hander Johan Santana and outfielder Carlos Beltran contained significant deferrals, and the team's offer to Wright might, too.
With the Mets, with these negotiations, I’m not sure what to believe. Wright issued a statement Tuesday night saying he was “disappointed by reports that I’ve read today which are inaccurate.” He didn’t specify which reports, mind you. But I’m guessing that he’s not as impressed by the Mets’ largesse as the team would like you to think.
The truth will be known when there is an outcome, and even then the details might not be clear. For now, a reasonably straightforward negotiation — a baseball yay or nay — has turned into something of a public mess.
Just know this: If the Mets actually are offering Wright a monster extension, the only way he will say no is if he wants to hit the open market at the end of the season.
Which, for all anyone knows, might be his wish.
Indeed, these negotiations are a much bigger test for the Mets than they are for Wright, who will get his money either way.
True, Wright has said repeatedly that he wants to remain with the Mets, his original team. But surely, he also wants to win. And if I’m Wright, I’m asking ownership, “What else are you going to do to fix the club?”
As I wrote last week, an extension for Wright — and to a lesser extent, one for Dickey — would signal that the Mets were back in business. But even if the Mets completed both deals, they still would be a long way from contending in one of the game’s toughest divisions, the NL East.
Maybe Wright is willing to wait — and an average salary in the $17 million range for seven years surely would help reduce any of his pain and suffering.
But the guess here is that this negotiation is about more than satisfying Wright financially. And frankly, there are so many conflicting signals with the Mets, it is difficult to figure out their plan — or if they even have one.
Wright, who turns 30 on Dec. 20, is older than Zimmerman, 28, and Longoria, 27, but perhaps the safest long-term bet.
Longoria is the best offensive player according to OPS-plus, a statistic that adjusts a hitter’s OPS to his league and ballpark. But he has appeared in more than 133 games in only two of his five seasons.
Wright’s career OPS-plus is nearly as good as Longoria’s, and he has averaged 149 games in his eight full seasons. Zimmerman’s career OPS-plus is the lowest of the three, and he has not been as durable as Wright.
A seven-year extension would take Wright through 2020, one year beyond Zimmerman, two shy of Longoria.
Whatever the Mets are offering, one thing is clear:
The team is acting more aggressively than it did last offseason with shortstop Jose Reyes, who said that he never received an offer from the club after signing a free-agent contract with the Miami Marlins.
Mets officials say their offseason priority is to sign both Wright and Dickey to extensions. A trade of one or both also is possible, but such an approach would create its own set of problems.
Players entering the final year of contracts generally yield less than full value in trades — and that goes even for Dickey, who is a bargain at $5 million. The Mets’ principal gain, particularly with Wright, might be salary relief, unless they included cash to get better prospects.
Another option for the Mets would be to grant potential trade partners windows to extend Wright and/or Dickey, knowing that teams would make more tempting proposals if they were assured of keeping their desired player long term.
Such windows, though, might only complicate the negotiations, particularly if the trades became public and the teams were unable to reach agreements with the players.
Then there would be the Mets’ public-relations challenge.
A trade of Wright would create the possibility that the team’s homegrown star could appear in the July 16 All-Star Game at Citi Field wearing another club’s uniform.
To avoid such a scenario, the Mets could keep both Wright and Dickey into next season, continue trying to sign them to extensions and then — if the talks failed — trade them after the All-Star Game but before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Such a strategy, however, would further depress the trade values of both players; teams are less willing to trade elite prospects because of a new rule that prevents them from receiving a high draft pick if they acquire a potential free agent in the middle of a season and he then signs with another club.
Put it all together, and a trade of Wright and/or Dickey does not appear to be such a terrific option. A seven-year extension for Wright, who would be 31 at the start of his next contract, might not be such a terrific option, either.
Eventually, the Mets must make a decision.
Eventually, the truth will be known.
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